The Map As Art, an exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, fortifies what many artists and data visualizers have long known: maps are art. In their quest to transmit geographical data, maps borrow from and inform traditional art, all while employing a similar — if usually more constricted — process.
The Kansas City exhibition takes its title from the eponymous book by Katharine Harmon, its curator together with museum Director and Chief Curator Barbara O’Brien. The Map As Art features more than 30 large-scale maps by seven artists, completed in varying degrees of abstraction. Maps are loaded — with boundaries, travel, conflict, treaties, distance, data — and, though they’ve been treated ably over the years, they are rife for more artistic consideration. The exhibition could easily accomodate a wider breadth of artists. Still, for a small museum, the variation in style is admirable.