On Saturday September 23, 2017 the Block Museum celebrated the opening of the exhibition William Blake and the Age of Aquarius. The capstone of the opening day was “Blake, Now and Then” a conversation with Northwestern University Professor of Art History and exhibition Curator, Stephen Eisenman and W.J.T. Mitchell, Blake scholar, editor of “Critical Inquiry” and Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. The talk explored Blake’s role within his own time, his influence on countercultural American artists and musicians of the 1960s and the ways in which Blake’s independence, imagination and resistance to authority continues to resonate in contemporary life.
Excerpt of Opening Remarks by Lisa Corrin, Director, Block Museum of Art
Described as a lunatic, Blake did not fit any category. He was entirely an original who invented new ways of thinking about the relationship between word and text, was bold enough to challenge the monarchy, stood against slavery, and advocated for opening up the mind, the doors of perception…. While greatly understudied, it seems hardly surprising that Blake would become a model for artists, writers, and public intellectuals in the post-war period, especially the 1960s when in another time of dramatic social change we looked for role models whose example might help make sense of what was taking place in the United States… Blake’s oscillation between Utopianism and its dark underside had much in common with the political idealism and challenges to conformity of the 1960s counterculture and its own impulses and excesses…
In keeping with our mission: art as a springboard for discussion of ideas that are relevant to our time now – Blake Now and Then is topic of today’s conversation.