Past Exhibitions

Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment

Foregrounding contemporary artists’ engagement with social issues and shaping institutions, Climate Changing raises critical questions as we face the entwined crises of systemic racism and a global health pandemic. What role do art and culture play in revealing legacies of oppression and violence? How might artists help imagine a different future? How can all of us, collectively, create a real climate for change?

Designed as a forum to test ideas about what an arts institution could be, the Wex is uniquely positioned to act as a platform for these investigations. In that spirit, Climate Changing will restage a work commissioned for the center’s inaugural year: Chris Burden’s Wexner Castle (1990). By adding battlements to the brick sections of the building’s deconstructivist design (a reference to the Armory that once stood on its site), the late artist’s work offers a launchpad for questions pertinent to today’s social and political climate:

  • Is the museum a fortress to protect “precious” cultural objects or is it a platform for producing new ones?
  • If the purpose of museums is to provide and produce spaces for culture—and by extension act as arbiters of value—how can they forge pathways toward ethical awareness and foster active, equitable participation in shaping those values?
  • What are artists’ roles within institutions, communities, and culture?
  • Whom do museums serve?

Shared among the exhibiting artists is a use of criticism as a generative tool to reorient one’s position relative to unjust systems, structures, and effects of power—and to reenvision how these establishments and infrastructures might operate. The artists in Climate Changing deal with a range of matters such as mass incarceration; global warming; labor, debt, and economic inequality; colonization; racism; education and democracy; and ableism. By presenting projects that span multiple themes and frameworks, the exhibition emphasizes the power of intersectionality and interdependence and encourages a collective reimagining of our social environment.

Climate Changing features nine commissioned works, including Bird and Lava, a 2020–21 Wexner Center Artist Residency Award project by Torkwase Dyson. Alongside her new body of work in the galleries, Dyson’s project has a website the artist created during lockdown that has served as a repository for sketches, animations, and her thinking about historical and contemporary Black liberation strategies by those working in and against hostile and inhospitable environs.


Dave Hullfish Bailey+ • Chris Burden • Abraham Cruzvillegas with Tony Ball, Brianna Gluszak, Aaron Peters, Akeylah Wellington, and Bradley Weyandt+ • Demian DinéYazhi´+ • Torkwase Dyson+ • Futurefarmers+ • Jibade-Khalil Huffman+ • Baseera Khan+ • Carolyn Lazard • Park McArthur • Danielle Julian Norton+ • Pope.L • Raqs Media Collective • Related Tactics+ • Jacolby Satterwhite • Sable Elyse Smith • Constantina Zavitsanos

+ commissioned work


Dan DiPiero, Lecturer, Ohio State • Erica Levin, Assistant Professor, History of Art, Ohio State • Margaret Price, Director of Disability Studies Program and Associate Professor, Department of English, Ohio State • Maurice Stevens, Professor, Comparative Studies, Ohio State • Lucille Toth, Assistant Professor, Department of French and Italian, Ohio State (Newark), and Artistic Director, OnBoard(hers)

Organized by the Wex, Climate Changing will be accompanied by a robust, illustrated gallery guide featuring an essay by exhibition curator Lucy I. Zimmerman and commissioned and previously unpublished writings from Pope.L, Demian DinéYazhi’, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, and Park McArthur and Constantina Zavitsanos. Excerpts from a roundtable discussion with the advisory committee created for Climate Changing will also be included.


The Wexner Center’s exterior features crenellated, castle-like brick towers and contrastingly spare modular core with a projecting grid-like metal framework.

Chris Burden, Wexner Castle, 1990. Addition of crenels and merlons to existing Peter Eisenman–designed building. © Chris Burden/Licensed by The Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Image description: Exterior view of a postmodern building with deconstructed red brick sections that include crenellations on the top recalling a castle. The building has white scaffolding to the right, and the foreground includes a partial view of a curved, fragmented amphitheater with sloping grass behind it.

The Wexner Center for Arts’ Associate Curator of Exhibitions Lucy I. Zimmerman and Director of Learning & Public Practice Dionne Custer Edwards take a closer look at select works by artists Carolyn Lazard and Sable Elyse Smith featured in the exhibition Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment, on view through August 15, 2021.

A gallery has framed art on the walls. Large fabric-covered column pieces are stacked on the floor and lean against a column.

Installation view of Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment. Pictured: Baseera Khan, Column 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 2019; background series I Arrive in Place with a High Level of Psychic Distress, 2020.

Image description: a gallery with white walls and granite tile floors. There are five sculptures in the foreground: three are stacked atop each other; one is leaned on a rectangular column; and one is resting flat on the floor. Each section is about 6 feet in diameter. They are round, flat, dissected sections that represent a Corinthian column. The outer edges of the column sections are wrapped in collaged, multicolored silk rugs; they each have pink foam cores with a central orange resin disc. Behind the sculptures are five photo collages of limbs and isolated body parts against a black background and covered by tapestries and rugs. Multicolored angular plexiglass pieces float above the photos in the frames.

Five sculptures are spread out on a gallery floor.

Installation view of Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment. Pictured: a project by Abraham Cruzvillegas with Tony Ball, Brianna Gluszak, Aaron Peters, Akeylah Wellington, and Bradley Weyandt.

Image description: A gallery with five sculptures resting directly on the floor, each is painted half red and half black. The smallest sculpture on the right looks like a wheelchair, the other sculptures are more abstract but have recognizable elements; in the foreground is the back of a chair, behind that an I-beam, and next to that, the largest piece has a cowboy boot coming off the sculpture to the left; in front of that are two sections of vacuum tubing.

A large artwork made of found objects sits on a gallery floor. Art is on the walls.

Installation view of Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment. Pictured: in foreground, Dave Hullfish Bailey, Drawing toward untoward reckonings, 2021. Background: Baseera Khan.

Image description: A gallery with a sculpture of a provisional trailer in the foreground made from plywood and metal. It has two tires and various elements attached to it, including a red cooler and portable solar panels. To the left, there are three large panels on the wall with clusters of sketches and maps pinned to it. In the background there are four photo collages visible on the wall; in front of those is a sculpture of a dissected fluted column wrapped in collaged, multicolored silk rugs.

A film is projected onto a wall. A couch and chair sit in front of it. A large vinyl mural is on the wall next to the film.

Installation view of Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment. Pictured: Raqs Media Collective, Provisions for Everybody, 2018.

Image description: A gallery with a video projection on white wall. The projection depicts a low building beneath a very large tree, and it is reflected in the shiny gold wallpaper that covers the long adjacent wall to the right. This wallpaper features green-outlined, computer-rendered illustrations including a boat, an insect, a pig, and a helicopter, all in different scales. The gallery has light-beige carpet and a maroon couch and chair facing the projection.

Three channel video is projected onto a wall. Astro turf and yard signs are on the floor.

Installation view of Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment. Pictured: Jibade-Khalil Huffman, We Don’t Need Another Mural, 2019/2021.

Image description: A dimly lit gallery space with three walls and four projections. The left channel, viewed at an oblique angle, shows a news anchor next to an image of businesses with boarded-up windows. The center channel includes an image of a checkered tablecloth with puzzle pieces. The right channel has a black-and-white image of young person standing against a wall superimposed on a larger image of hands. There is AstroTurf on the ground, and seven staggered yard signs in yellow, black, blue, and red with words toward the back left corner of the space that read "We Don't" "CHAIN MAIL" "In This House." A projection on top of the signs renders some illegible.

Three artworks are hung on a gallery wall.

Installation view of Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment. Pictured from left to right: Sable Elyse Smith, Landscape II, 2017; Carolyn Lazard, Pain Scale, 2019; Sable Elyse Smith, Coloring Book 56, 2020.

Image description: Three artworks hung on a long gallery wall, the furthest away, to the left, is a neon sculpture with white text that is illegible from afar and a yellow line below. Next, a series of six identical brown smiley face decals, equally spaced in a line. Two white columns are near the center of the image, and the framed work beyond depicts two coloring book pages that are blown-up, measuring about 5 foot tall. The frames are staggered so the drawing on the left is hung about 8 inches lower than that on the right. A globe runs across these two pages at the center of the spread. On the left page is the figure of a judge, a policeman, and a child, on the right there is a doctor, a man in overalls, and another child. The figures are colored in with red, blue, yellow, green, and cream marks that do not follow the lines of the forms, and most faces except for that of the man in the overalls is are obscured. Below them, text reads "IF WE ALL WORK TOGETHER, WE CAN MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE".

Related Material

Organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts and curated by Associate Curator of Exhibitions Lucy I. Zimmerman with assistance from Ohio State Contemporary Art Curatorial Practice MA students Dareen Hussein and Anna Talarico.

Ohio State's Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme
Cardinal Health
Nancy and David Gill
The Guitammer Company

American Electric Power Foundation

Greater Columbus Arts Council
Mary and C. Robert Kidder
L Brands Foundation
American Electric Power Foundation
The Columbus Foundation
Ohio Arts Council
Bill and Sheila Lambert
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Nationwide Foundation
Adam R. Flatto
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease
Arlene and Michael Weiss

Carol and David Aronowitz
Michael and Paige Crane
Axium Plastics
Fenwick & West LLP
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
M/I Homes
Ohio State Energy Partners
Washington Prime Group
Lisa Barton
Russell and Joyce Gertmenian
Liza Kessler and Greg Henchel
Nancy Kramer
Matrix Psychological Services
Paramount Group, Inc.
Bruce and Joy Soll
Business Furniture Installations
E.C. Provini Co, Inc.
New England Development
Our Country Home


Past Exhibitions

Climate Changing: On Artists, Institutions, and the Social Environment