The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University has announced the acquisition of the Jeffrey A. Wolin Archive that will include current and future work by Wolin along with the following notable projects: Written in Memory: Portraits of the Holocaust; Inconvenient Stories: Vietnam War Veterans;Life at the Millennium; New Faces at the Crossroads; Pigeon Hill: Then and Now; and Stone Country: Then and Now. In addition to his well-known series, the archive consists of more than 500 items spanning Wolin’s entire career, from his early social documentary photography inspired by Lewis Hine to his poetic landscapes of Roman ruins in Provence. This acquisition is made possible in part by the generosity of Martha and David Moore, members of the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s National Advisory Board.
Jeffrey A. Wolin is the Ruth N. Halls Professor Emeritus of Photography and founder of the Center for Integrative Photographic Studies at IU Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, where he served as director from 1994 to 2002. During his 35-year career at IU, Wolin taught hundreds of students who went on to successful careers in the arts and education, while creating and exhibiting an incredible body of photographic work. Wolin’s photographs have been exhibited in more than 100 exhibitions in the United States and Europe, including solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago, International Center of Photography in New York, George Eastman Museum in Rochester, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and group exhibitions at MoMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and LA County Museum of Art. His work is included in more than 40 major museum collections in the United States and Europe, and six monographs of his work have been published. He is also the recipient of two Visual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Throughout his career, Wolin has chosen to focus on the difficult realities of poverty, war, and trauma. His experience as a police photographer gave his work a candid nature in its approach to often difficult subject matter. Shot with stark, direct light, Wolin’s images display a perspective that is sometimes uncomfortably close to the subject. Inspired by the self-taught artists Howard Finster and Sister Gertrude Morgan, as well as the legendary Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, Wolin combines his love of words with a passion for making photographs, writing the stories of each subject directly around them. His powerful approach to his subjects evokes compassion and empathy for people who have endured immense hardships and pain. Through his work, Wolin makes their stories accessible to us.
The Wolin Archive will serve as an important teaching resource at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, which has long had an active program in the study, exhibition, and publication of its prints, drawings, and photographs collection, which includes more than 22,000 works. These efforts will be expanded with the opening of a new Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs on the third floor of the east wing. An expanded study room with high-quality zoom cameras will offer unprecedented opportunities for students and the public to engage with original works of art, as well as access via distance-learning technology. The museum’s first gallery dedicated to the exhibition of works on paper will host featured shows, including a future restropective exhibition of Wolin’s work that will be accompanied by a publication. Major goals for the center include enhanced visibility, increased access, a more extensive research program, development of the collection through strategic acquisitions, and a comprehensive collections care program.
“Almost forty years ago, the museum’s second director, Thomas T. Solley, had the foresight to acquire the archives of Midwest-based photographers and educators, Henry Holmes Smith and Art Sinsabaugh, I am delighted to see us continuing to build on this legacy by adding the archive of Jeff Wolin, another ground-breaking photographer from our region,” said Nanette Esseck Brewer, Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper at the Eskenazi Museum of Art.
Of the museum’s acquisition of his archive, Jeffrey A. Wolin said, “It is a tremendous honor to have my life’s work preserved at the Eskenazi Museum of Art where it will be available to students, curators, scholars, and the public, now and in the future. The Eskenazi Museum recognizes the importance of photographers’ archives with the Henry Holmes Smith and Art Sinsabaugh Collections. It also has major holdings by seminal photographers like Edward Weston and Jerry Uelsmann. I am thrilled to have my work be a part of this important legacy.”
David Brenneman, Wilma E. Kelley Director at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, said of the Wolin acquisition, “We are grateful to Jeff for choosing the museum as a home for his archive, and we look forward to sharing his work with IU students in the newly renovated museum. The museum’s new Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs will allow us to examine Jeff’s work through the lens of the history of the photographic process. I am also grateful to Martha and David Moore for their leadership and support in helping to make this possible.”