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.

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.

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…

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