This exhibition was on view from July 22 to December 23, 2022.

B. Ingrid Olson: History Mother, Little Sister

The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts is pleased to announce two simultaneous solo exhibitions by artist B. Ingrid Olson: History Mother and Little Sister, each on a separate floor of the Center’s landmark Le Corbusier building. The exhibitions feature site-specific installations informed by a feminist engagement with experiences of doubling and mirroring, gendered forms, reciprocity between photography and sculpture, and ways the artist’s body and each viewer’s body relate to the built environment.

In the Carpenter Center’s Level 3 Sert Gallery, History Mother takes an unconventional approach to the “history” of Olson’s practice. A selection of photographic works from the past decade joins new works, together articulating how Olson uses her own body as subject matter—bent knees, limbs, hands, and feet press up against mirrors and photographic surfaces, confusing points of contact between the figure and the picture plane—as well as the archival impulse that runs through her practice, with collections of objects, images, and gestures often gathered, repeated, and rhymed across the assembled works. Alongside this photographic “retrospective,” Olson will show a new room-sized installation, Proto Coda, Index (2016–22), that choreographs the display of meticulously produced MDF reproductions of all of her sculptural reliefs made to date.

In Olson’s sculptural reliefs, a long-standing part of her practice, she employs carving (using a CNC machine that carves from sheets of wood or polyurethane foam, which she sands and paints by hand) and casting to create sculptural reliefs that evoke fragments of the human form in their measurements and symmetries. Her carved and cast objects convey both intimacy and distance, their physicality suggesting contact with both the artist’s body and with a machine. The sculptures themselves, cast from molds or carved from a design, go through a process of abstraction as details are softened and forms are reduced. With this new work, Proto Coda, Index, Olson creates another layer or abstraction as the specific texture and material identities of individual past works are flattened by their uniform reproduction in milled and sanded MDF, emphasizing their form—and bodily relations—above all else.

Meanwhile, Little Sister, presented in the Carpenter Center’s Level 1 Gallery, debuts an ambitious suite of new sculptures scaled to the building’s spaces, surfaces, and forms, and in critical conversation with its affects and ideological origins. In a variety of media, Olson distorts, inverts, repurposes, and frustrates the functions and metaphors of architectural elements, such as doors, windows, vestibules, light fixtures, and corridors. Sculptural details that suggest bodily anatomy and partially concealed photographs and ceramic sculptures join industrial materials and construction techniques in structures that populate Level 1’s indoor and outdoor gallery and public spaces.

Little Sister represents the first time Olson has created works at an architectural scale. Why does my vestibule hurt? (2021-22) riffs on the proportions and function of the Carpenter Center’s cubic glass and concrete vestibule. Olson’s sculpture resembles a revolving door, with display surfaces of radial aluminum structures on which are hung ceramic and mixed-media sculptures partially obscured by a set of facing walls. The sculptural light fixtures of What I would be if I wasn’t what I am appropriate and tweak the same highly evocative 1930s models (suggesting shells, flowers, architectural ornamentation, modernist restraint, animal anatomy, human genitals) that are installed in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, where Olson used to work. The artist has replaced all overhead lighting in the Level 1 Gallery and outdoor spaces with sculpturally modified versions of these fixtures.

Further, a sculpture incorporating swan eggs, Camera Swans Juliet (2020–22), recalls a kind of oblong camera facing walls of windows in two directions, made specifically to sit upon the permanent concrete benches in the space. Door Picture, a view in perspective arranged close together (2021–22) creates a claustrophobic corridor-like space that conceals and reveals photographic works featuring imagery of the artist’s body engaged in similar spatial contortions, withholdings, and disclosures. White Wall, painted for Gray (2022) alludes to a fraught episode between Le Corbusier and designer and architect Eileen Gray, and makes a quiet yet radical intervention into one of the building’s iconic architectural features.


In this exhibition companion, and Olson’s first monograph, the innovative book design brings together extensive documentation of the site-specific installation, diagrammatic sketches, and reproductions of works made over the last decade, putting them into conversation with a selection of poetry and criticism that inform Olson’s practice. Newly commissioned texts include an introductory essay by curator Dan Byers, an essay by art historian and critic Leah Pires, an experimental text by Renee Gladman, and a conversation between artist Gordon Hall and B. Ingrid Olson. Joining these texts are reprinted selections of poetry and essays by Andrew Blackley, Jennifer Bloomer, Anne Boyer, Beatriz Colomina, Maria Fusco, Kim Hyesoon, Diane Lewis, Lily Bea Moor, Michael Snow, Olga Tokarczuk, and Rosmarie Waldrop. The book design is by Chad Kloepfer.

B. Ingrid Olson was born in 1987 in Denver, Colorado. She lives and works in Chicago. In addition to her Carpenter Center exhibitions, Olson will open a solo show at Secession, Vienna in June 2022. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Fingered Eyed, i8 Gallery, Reykjavík (2019); Forehead and Brain, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (2018); Kiss the architect on the mouth, Simone Subal Gallery, New York (2018); and Klein / Olson, The Renaissance Society, Chicago (2017). Selected group exhibitions include Fata Morgana, Jeu de Paume, Paris (2022); The Inconstant World, Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2021); Dependent Objects, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2021); New Visions: The Triennial for Photography and New Media, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden, Norway (2020); Personal Private Public, Hauser & Wirth, New York (2019); Being: New Photography 2018, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2018); and Lost Without Your Rhythm, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen (2018).


Gallery Guide

Selected Press

B. Ingrid Olson: History Mother, Little Sister


This first monograph on the Chicago-based multimedia artist B. Ingrid Olson (born 1987) accompanies two simultaneous exhibitions: History Mother and Little Sister, each on a separate floor of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Informed by notions of doubling and mirroring, unexpected uses of footnotes and architectural fixtures as well as the work of figures such as Madeline Gins and Eileen Gray, the exhibitions insinuate her own objects and images into a sometimes tense, playfully knowing relationship with Le Corbusier’s famous building, probing the normative, gendered and material experiments of the structure’s modular elements of concrete, glass, plywood and primary colors. The book’s innovative design brings together documentation of the site-specific installation, sketches and reproductions of other works made over the last decade, putting them into conversation with a selection of poetry and criticism that informs Olson’s practice.

Text by Andrew Blackley, Jennifer Bloomer, Anne Boyer, Beatriz Colomina, Maria Fusco, Renee Gladman, Gordon Hall, Kim Hyesoon, Diane Lewis, Lily Bea Moor, B. Ingrid Olson, Leah Pires, Michael Snow, Olga Tokarczuk, Rosmarie Waldrop.

8.5 x 10.75 inches
184 pages

ISBN: 9781735230528
Designer: Chad Kloepfer
Publisher: Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Distribution: D.A.P. | Distributed Arts Publishers

B. Ingrid Olson: History Mother, Little Sister is available for purchase at the Carpenter Center Bookshop and D.A.P. | Distributed Art Publishers