Ken Aptekar | The Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series

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This speaker event was recorded live on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at 5:30 pm at the U-M Art Museum, Ann Arbor, MI.

Artist Ken Aptekar toys with historical paintings by using the history of art as his playground. He time-travels works from the past into the present by his repainting joined to his own texts. Here’s the idea: Paintings are nothing on their own, they start meaning something only when you start talking back to them. Aptekar turns this conviction into oil paintings on wood panels over which he bolts glass sandblasted with text. This idea animating his work extends to digital prints, and more recently, video, and illuminated manuscripts. With words disrupting reinterpreted images from art history, his works assert the value of recognizing our transhistorical bonds, society’s vexing failings, and art’s capacity to bring us together across our differences.

As COVID-19 swept into our lives, Aptekar began new work on illuminated manuscripts. Holed up in a corner of the vaulted furnace room of his house in Burgundy, France, he worked with gouache, tiny brushes, gold leaf, and calligraphy pen in his own ​scriptorium.” He merged two very different types of communication; the exquisite, labor-intensive techniques and forms seen in medieval pages hidden away in rare book rooms were pressed into the service of messages made minute to minute on cell phones. For his talk, Aptekar will highlight the twists and turns in his shifting preoccupations that produced works at times disturbing, contemplative, and hilarious.

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The Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series Spring 2024 Season

This spring, the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series brings respected leaders and innovators from a broad spectrum of creative fields to Ann Arbor’s historic Michigan Theater for weekly in-person events.

Detroit Public Television and PBS Books, in partnership with the Stamps School, will stream each week’s event Fridays at 8pm.

See the full schedule of events livestreamed by PBS Books here.

Some programs may not be available online, depending on artist requests. Interested in receiving notifications before online videos go live? Sign up to receive a reminder before each event begins streaming.

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