7/15/22 - 12/22/22

Horace D. Ballard, the Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. Associate Curator of American Art, Harvard Art Museums

Mary Ann Unger: To Shape a Moon from Bone is a full reconsideration of the multidisciplinary practice of one of the twentieth century’s great artists. Rising to prominence in the downtown New York art scene in the 1980s and 1990s, Mary Ann Unger (1945–1998) was skilled in graphic composition, watercolor, large-scale conceptual sculpture, and environmentally-responsive, site-specific interventions. At the time of her death, Unger was a member of the Guerrilla Girls and was acknowledged as a feminist pioneer of neo-expressionist sculptural form. To Shape a Moon from Bone reexamines the formal and cultural intricacies of Unger’s oeuvre, as well as the critical environmental themes suffusing the monumental installations. The exhibition repositions Unger within and against the male-dominated New York sculpture scene in the last decades of the twentieth century.

To Shape a Moon from Bone is Unger’s first solo museum presentation in more than twenty years. The artist’s monumental homage to prehistoric migration, Across the Bering Strait (1994–96) will be on view, in concert with previously unseen works on paper, and other sculptural works from the Mary Ann Unger Estate in order to reintroduce Unger’s expansive and multidisciplinary practice to a new generation. Works by Unger’s daughter, artist Eve Biddle, bring two generations of a family of artists into abundant conversation around memory and material evidence.

Unger’s unique typography of influences, materials, and signs span the history of art and cultural myth and the exhibition brings together works from the Williams College Museum of Art’s holdings of African, European, and Pre-Columbian art with over 60 works from the Estate to thoroughly interrogate the timely issues of lineage, influence, and appropriation endemic to contemporary sculptural practice.

Organized by Horace D. Ballard, the Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. Associate Curator of American Art, Harvard Art Museums

Preview the exhibition:

Time-lapse video of the installation of Across the Bering Strait:

Exhibition overview with curator Horace D. Ballard:

Watch a series of videos highlighting key moments in the exhibition on our YouTube channel here

Exhibition catalog:

Mary Ann Unger: To Shape a Moon from Bone
Edited by Horace D. Ballard
With contributions by Eve Biddle, Zoe Dobuler, and Sarah Montross
Williams College Museum of Art (2022)

This monograph brings together images of the artist’s works with many never-before-published photographs of the artist by Unger’s husband, the noted photographer Geoffrey Biddle. Taking the reprinting of Roberta Smith’s 1999 obituary for Unger as a starting point, the essays provide the first full consideration of Unger, tracing her life, her studies and her network of artists and mentors. This catalog also includes an interview with Unger’s daughter, the artist Eve Biddle.

The catalog will be available for sale in the museum shop and through online booksellers.

News & Press

Cassie Packard, Mary Ann Unger’s Patterns of Movement, Frieze, July 27, 2022

Mary Ann Unger: To Shape a Moon from Bone at WCMA, iBerkshires, June 24, 2022