Welcome to the UK Art Museum

The University of Kentucky Art Museum, part of the UK College of Fine Arts, promotes the understanding and appreciation of art from diverse cultures and historical periods, providing meaningful encounters for audiences of all ages. Through our temporary exhibitions, educational programs, and permanent collection of approximately 5000 objects, we are a resource for the campus community and a cultural destination for citizens of the Commonwealth and beyond.  Our Free Admission policy removes any financial obstacle that might stand in the way of opportunities for contemplation and connection.

We are proud to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, meeting standards for excellence and professional practices.

Robert Rauschenberg, Shore Hole (Urban Bourbon), 1988, acrylic on enameled aluminum. A gift from the artist to Bradley Jeffries. © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York.

RAUSCHENBERG: A Gift in Your Pocket from the Collections of Friends in Honor of Bradley Jeffries

Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008) was one of the twentieth century’s most significant artists, working in media including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and performance. His inclusive practice spanned six decades, during which he combined traditional art materials with ordinary objects from the urban and beachfront environments in which he lived. He cultivated new techniques that served his conceptual and aesthetic goals, and collaborated with scientists, technicians, and various assistants.  

Bradley Jeffries (1949–2021) was born in Columbia, Kentucky, and graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Journalism in 1971. After graduation, she settled in Sanibel, Florida, where she had a regular newspaper column and a weekly spot on television news. A chance encounter with Rauschenberg on Captiva Island in the late 1970s, led to her becoming his studio manager and confidant for almost thirty years. Jeffries was gatekeeper for the artist…

Image captions: Marlene McCarty, Group 2 (Norman, Oklahoma. 1963-1977. baboon island, the gambia, Africa. 1977-1987), 2007, graphite and ballpoint pen on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Marlene McCarty: Thicker than Water

Marlene McCarty is known for her drawings that examine aspects of sexuality, articulation of power, and social formation. Using graphite, ballpoint pen, and occasionally watercolor, she has made composite portraits of teenage female murderers, as well as humans interacting with other primates. Informed by research, media images, and historical data, her works are often unsettling and explicit, deriving their power from the combination of provocative content, monumental scale, delicacy of line, and subtle shading. 

McCarty grew up in Lexington and her family has resided in Kentucky for over two centuries. She recently donated large portraits of her parents—Phyllis Lee James McCarty and William Kenneth McCarty—seen with their grandchildren. Both drawings play with time, mixing and inverting the actual ages of the subjects and using details of clothing and hairstyle to further complicate the personal narrative.  

This exhibition pairs these two works…

Louis Zoellar Bickett, Untitled, March 1991, cotton and paint.

Louis Zoellar Bickett: Wrapped and Waxed

Louis Zoellar Bickett (1950–2017) was known for his rigorous practice of collecting and cataloging items from his daily life to form a vast archive whose purpose was to chronicle life in real time. Accumulated photographs, receipts, articles of clothing, books, toys, furniture, and bodily fluids were preserved, tagged, and situated throughout Bickett’s home and studio. They collectively formed a portrait of the artist and his consistent subjects—religion, sexuality, family, place, and time. As he stated, “Life is a meaningless series of events that lead to the grave. The charge of civilization is to live as if that was not true.”  

This modest exhibition features a series of wrapped and waxed objects that were recently donated or are promised gifts to the Museum by David R. Hanlon and Linda Schwartz. Both were long-standing supporters and collaborators with Bickett throughout his career. These works—shrouded in fabric and painted, or sealed in red wax—are…

Tony Matelli, Weed #294, 2014, painted bronze.

re:museum

The re:museum exhibition centers our permanent collection and the UK Art Museum itself through artworks, educational prompts, and other incisive displays. The artworks on view in re:museum draw from our Digital Learning Gallery, an online resource established through a UK Arts Extension Outreach Grant that connects art lovers from across the Commonwealth to our collection. re:museum offers visitors an opportunity to view objects up close and complements online engagement with unique in-person opportunities. Each item on view in re:museum includes contextual background information, contemplative prompts, and activities for a variety of ages and art experience levels.  

In addition to the artwork on display, re:museum also features insights into our institutional history as well as a peak behind the curtain on how we exhibit and preserve works of art. How high on the wall are paintings hung? How are artworks cared for when not on view? Who decides which pieces to show or…

Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, Site of a Dangerous Leap, Now Overgrown, 2008, digital inkjet print. Collection of the UK Art Museum, purchase: The Robert C. May Photography Fund.

Site of a Dangerous Leap

The title and spirit of this exhibition was inspired in many ways by a photograph made by Mark Klett with Byron Wolfe. An intrepid climber bounds from one rocky outcrop to another; caught in mid-air, his landing is uncertain. Klett started out as a straight photographer, but began marrying historic and contemporary imagery, occasionally with tongue in cheek. He has deftly inserted a vintage postcard of the daredevil jumper into his own twenty-first century photograph of the same vista, now partly obscured by pine trees. Klett’s work considers iconic landscapes and the continuum of history, but also looks to the future. The tiny figure leaping across the craggy chasm is an optimist: anticipating a safe landing, but also enjoying the frisson of fear and jolt of adrenaline that accompanies such an undertaking.  

This exhibition is an idiosyncratic jump into the Museum’s permanent collection, highlighting its breadth and tasting its wonder. In twenty years, I have come to…

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Untitled from the series Georgetown Street, circa 1955-56, gelatin silver print. Collection of the UK Art Museum, gift of the Ralph Eugene Meatyard Estate.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Georgetown Street

In the early 1950s, Ralph Eugene Meatyard and Van Deren Coke set out to photograph all the people, homes, and businesses on Georgetown Street in Lexington. Together they made 150 images and exhibited thirty of them in the Lexington Camera Club’s annual show in November 1956. The results are sometimes joyful, sometimes disturbing.  

“These are the people, the places, no derision shown,” Meatyard wrote in an exhibition statement. “There is no squalor, but rather the moments when these people are at peace with themselves. It is not distorted to show the depths, as were the W.P.A. Farm Security Photographs. It is personal with a sense of appreciation for the peaceful in the world. We have only one story to tell and it is that these people are like you and me.”  

Before the Newtown Pike extension, Georgetown Street ran from what is now New Circle Road to Short Street downtown and was a primarily African American neighborhood. Just as Georgetown Street has…

William Hogarth, Gin Lane, 1751, etching and engraving on paper. Collection of the UK Art Museum, purchase: Gaines Challenge Fund.

Sinners and Saints

Oscar Wilde said, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future,” acknowledging that we are all works in progress, and most of us struggle with both good and at least somewhat malicious impulses over the course of our lives. Sinners and Saints examines both the labels and the blurred lines as artists present mixed messages in their approach to these twinned themes. Drawn from the permanent collection, this exhibition includes traditional Christian imagery as well as depictions of fallen men and women. The art ranges from the sixteenth through twentieth century and includes an exquisite Guido Reni drawing of the Madonna and Child, along with William Hogarth’s depictions of riotous behavior on Gin Lane and Beer Street. 

Historically, saintliness and sin were most often pinned to the female body, whether women bore the representation of spiritual purity or enticed men to indulge in carnal pleasure. Visually speaking, however,…

Alex Katz, Red Coat, 1983, color screenprint on paper. Collection of the UK Art Museum, purchase: Gaines Challenge Fund.

Among Women

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark piece of legislation that made access to an abortion a federal right in the United States. This action dismantled fifty years of legal protection for women and control over their reproductive health.  This was not a surprise given the dispositions of the current justices, but it is another challenge among the issues of equality and respect, and gender and racial discrimination facing women today. 

In solidarity with them, this exhibition features works from the Museum's permanent collection showing women of various ages, backgrounds, and orientations. Their faces and bodies reveal attitudes of confidence, anxiety, poise, and resignation. Paintings and prints of young girls by Hattie Hutchcraft Hill, Fletcher Martin, Alice Neel, and Andy Warhol are seen alongside mature women, including rural and urban subjects photographed by Doris Ulmann and Garry Winogrand. One surprising inclusion is Julien…

Image captions:   Amber Boardman, Pink March, 2017, oil on polyester. Collection of the UK Art Museum, gift of the artist.

re:museum

The re:museum exhibition is getting a re:fresh in 2023 with a new set of artworks and updated displays.  

re:museum centers the Museum and our permanent collection by exhibiting a combination of artworks, educational prompts, and other incisive displays. The artworks on view in re:museum pull from our Digital Learning Gallery, an online resource established through a UK Arts Extension Outreach Grant to connect art lovers to our collection across Kentucky and beyond. Each item on view in re:museum includes contextual background information, contemplative prompts, and activities for a variety of ages and art experience levels.  

In addition to the artwork on display, re:museum also features insights into our institutional history and a peek behind the curtain on how we exhibit and preserve works of art. How high on the wall are paintings hung? How are artworks cared for when not on view? Who decides which pieces…

Barbara Rossi, Pedestrian Rainbow Lady, 1969, proof on satin. Collection of the UK Art Museum, gift of Kohler Foundation, Inc.

Barbara Rossi: Bodily Forms

In 2022, the Museum received a generous gift of Barbara Rossi works from the Kohler Foundation in Wisconsin, and several of these are included in this exhibition. The artist is associated with the Chicago Imagists, along with Roger Brown, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, and Karl Wirsum, among others. They each utilize the human figure in fantastic ways, rendering it with precise line, vibrant color, and stylized distortions that straddle the line between the comic and the grotesque.  

Rossi studied at St. Xavier College, and had planned to become a nun. She eventually decided to pursue an art career and attended the graduate program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she was profoundly influenced by her teachers Ray Yoshida and Whitney Halstead. 

Dedicated to process, Rossi explored techniques including reverse painting on Plexiglas, which does not allow for any revisions; and what she calls, “magic works”: drawings that unfold from…

Edward Fisk, Self-Portrait, 1939, oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Edward Fisk estate.

Edward Fisk: Legacies

In September 1926, American modernist Edward Fisk left New York City to join the art department at the University of Kentucky. He had been embedded in avant-garde art circles in the city, where he exhibited in the company of friends like Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, and Marsden Hartley. He was also close to Eugene O’Neill; the artist and his friends traveled to Provincetown over several summers to visit the playwright and his literary cadre. Fisk came to Lexington following the breakup of a first marriage; the move gave him the peace, time, and space to make his art and find love again. In 1930, he married Lucy Young and they settled into an apartment in Hampton Court. 

In 1998, Fisk’s oeuvre was documented in a major retrospective at the Museum organized by former curator Rachael Sadinsky. At the time, the artist’s children Allie Hendricks and Milton Fisk gifted fifteen pieces of art to the Museum. This includes one of the most-beloved paintings in the collection, a…

Created 08/13/2021
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Last Updated 07/01/2022