Breaking the Mold: Investigating Gender at the Speed Art Museum

April 7 – September 9, 2018
Location: North Building, second floor
Free with general admission 

How can contemporary art facilitate discussions about gender and power? Drawing chiefly from the permanent collection at the Speed Art Museum, Breaking the Mold explores depictions of gender identity through the body, dress, objects, and history. 

Acknowledging that all humans contend with the issues of gender and sexuality, this exhibition includes a variety of perspectives and a spectrum of gender expressions. Through these artworks we are inspired to question how we define “ideal” female and male body types, gendered societal roles, how gender intersects with race, and the perceived differences between male and female. Through self-portraits, portraits of their sitters, and images appropriated from popular culture, these artists address the themes of desire, attraction, pride, discomfort, and discrimination.  

Among the exhibition’s highlights is the Speed’s recent acquisition of Tavares Strachan’s What Will Be Remembered In The Face of All That Is Forgotten, 2014-2015. Featuring a life-size suspended neon sculpture of the human circulatory system, the artwork is an homage to Rosalind Franklin, an often-overlooked scientist whose work transformed our understanding of the structure of DNA. Other highlights include a presentation of Ricerche: three by Sharon Hayes, which debuted at the 2013 Venice Biennale. In this video Hayes interviews 35 students at Mount Holyoke College, a women’s college in western Massachusetts, about issues surrounding sex, sexuality, and gender. The Speed is also proud to collaborate with the Photographic Archives at the University of Louisville and the Faulkner Morgan Archive on presenting photographs by John Ashley documenting the LGBTQ community of Lexington, Kentucky. 

Featured artists in Breaking the Mold include Ghada Amer, John Ashley, Paul Cadmus, Robert Colescott, Sharon Hayes, John Kacere, Barbara Kruger, Louise Nevelson, Gladys Nilsson, Ebony G. Patterson, Philip Pearlstein, Kiki Smith, Tavares Strachan, John Valerio, R. Michael Walker, June Wayne, John Wesley, and Kehinde Wiley.

Watch the “Dialogues on Gender” series:
Y’all Better Quiet Down: Trans Advocacy, Justice and Safety – Panel discussion with Dr. Kaila Story, Jaison Gardner, Victoria Syimone Taylor, and Dawn Wilson

Living a Feminist Life Through Art, Education, and the Media – Panel discussion with Dr. Kaila Story, Jaison Gardner, and art critic and found of Art F City, Paddy Johnson.

It Do Take Nerve: Drag as a Subversive Tool of Resistance – Panel discussion with Dr. Kaila Story and Jaison Gardner, followed by a Drag Show by Play Louisville.


Support for the exhibition is provided by
A. Cary Brown and Steven E. Epstein
Paul and Deborah Chellgren
Elizabeth W. Davis
Corporate support for the Speed Art Museum’s exhibition season is provided by