Sun / Mar 26
6:52pm

Museum

About the Exhibition

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” ― John Berger, Ways of Seeing 

This multi-media selection of works by over two dozen artists explores what and how we see today, revealing the visible and hidden forces shaping both what the contemporary world looks like, and how we consume and interpret that information—how visual and psychological perception are evolving in the 21st century. The degradation of the environment is laid bare in Nick Brandt’s photographic elegy to Kenya, The Ravaged Land, while Hans Op de Beeck’s lyrical animation, Night Time, mixes nostalgia and desire in both praise and mourning for the unseen worlds of darkness and dreams. The power of visual perception to shape human lives is revealed in thought-provoking works by Hank Willis Thomas, Travis Somerville, Paul Rucker, Sam Nhlengethwa, Graciela Sacco, and others, which address the legacies of 20th century racial, social, and political strife. Steve Mumford’s monumental Empire invokes the tradition of Western history painting in recreating an image that has appeared frequently in the media since the early 2000s: jumpsuit-clad prisoners being boarded onto a US aircraft carrier. The prisoners are blindfolded, and the soldiers look askance, neither gazing directly at their captives nor at the viewer. The global pervasiveness of conflict has engendered the normalization of shock and numb; wanting to look but not to see, we lose sight. As many of these artworks reveal, we are disturbed by violent, unjust, or tragic incidents, yet accustomed to their regularity, and may be blind to their causes and costs.

Mateo Mate and Lalla Essaydi employ camouflage imagery to illustrate how the technologies of social and military power are embedded in domestic and public space; in an age of increasing surveillance, what we do not or cannot see is that we are always seen. The formal complexity present in Wu Jian’an’s paper collage, Peter Demetz’s wooden sculpture and Walter Oltmann’s wire Child Skull offers few clues about the subjects’ identities, further reflecting the mysteries and limitations of visual perception. Norbert Brunner’s alluring mirror exploits these limitations—You Are Enchanting only delivers affirmation to viewers precisely centered in front of the work—while a frontal view of Hank Willis Thomas’ portrait of Sanford Biggers blurs his likeness. When seen from one side only, the Baron of the Crossroads is either black or white. In Toyin Ojih Odutola’s white charcoal on black board figure, tonal values are inverted to suggest a drawn negative, in which intricate, sinewy lines delineate interiority, exposing what is beneath and behind the surfaces of skin, eyes, hair—the construction of identity in black and white.

The gulf between what is seen and known—between appearance and reality—is illuminated in works by Alain Declercq and Kevin Cooley, both of whom describe their photographs of explosions as “fighting fire with fire.” Declercq’s Blast series is a pictorial archive of chemical compounds used for weaponry photographed at the moment of combustion, while Cooley creates his Controlled Burn explosions in his studio, exploring the duality of creation and destruction inherent in fire, and referencing the use of smoke signals as a form of communication. The proliferation of visual information presented daily on platforms large and small—in the midst of pulsating cities and within the intimate interactions between self and screen—alters the consumption and communication of the signs and signals that describe what is happening in the world around us. How can we distinguish which city’s Rush Hour is captured by Grethe Sørensen? Rafael Lozano- Hemmer’s Zero Noon, a clock that runs on internet-refreshed statistics, conflates time and data into a screen-based experience of consumption. Collapsing the immediate distance between what is seen and what is known, Zero Noon depends on the viewer to connect these indices of change.

Engaged focus and active participation are needed to decipher the features depicted in Odutola’s anonymous, white-on-white portraits, and to grasp the images present in Hank Willis Thomas’ retro-reflective screen prints, which resolve only through flash photography on a mobile device. To the naked eye, these archival press photographs of public events are white-washed scenes devoid of any perceptible narrative; through the augmented gaze of the camera’s lens and flash, the images document instances of racial and social injustice, creating a pointed assessment of how we see today shapes what we see, know, and understand of past and present moments, fleeting in time, lasting in impact.

Alice Gray Stites, Chief Curator

Peggy Ahwesh (American)
Anamorphic View #1, 2010
Photograph

Anamorphic View #2, 2010
Photograph

Liu Bolin (Chinese)
Hiding in California No. 1 – TED, 2013
Photograph

Wim Botha (South African)
Untitled (Bywoner 3), 2013
Encyclopedia Britannica, steel rods on wooden base

Nick Brandt (English)
Buffalo Trophy, Chyulu Hills, Kenya, 2012
Archival pigment print

Kudo Trophy, Chyulu Hills, Kenya, 2012
Archival pigment print

Lion Trophy, Chyulu Hills, Kenya, 2012
Archival pigment print

Norbert Brunner (Austrian)
You Are Enchanting, 2013
Digital print on acrylic glass, acrylic mirror, Swarovski crystals, MDF, LED lights

Kevin Cooley (American)
Controlled Burn 1, 2013
Archival pigment print

Controlled Burn 3, 2013
Archival pigment print

Alain Declercq (French)
Blast / H Bomb, 2013
Inkjet print

Blast / Napalm, 2013
Inkjet print

Blast / Phosphor 1, 2013
Inkjet print

Blast / TNT, 2013
Inkjet print

Peter Demetz (Italian)
L’Incontro, 2012
Wood

Ben Durham (American)
Natasha, 2008
Graphite text on handmade paper

Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan)
Bullets Revisited #20, 2013
Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum

Les Femmes du Maroc: Harem Women Writing, 2008
Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum

Daniel Halter (Zimbabwean)
Perfection, 2011
Zimbabwean dollars, map

Trenton Doyle Hancock (American)
Wow That’s Mean, 2008
Etching printed chine collé on black paper

Wu Jian’an (Chinese)
Eyes Closed, 2013
Color paper cutting and paste on wood board

Dinh Q. Lê (Vietnamese)
Untitled (Cambodia: Splendour and Darkness) #17, 1999
Chromogenic print and linen tape

Witness I, 2014
Chromogenic print and linen tape

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Mexican-Canadian)
Zero Noon, 2013
Computer, processing software, square HD display, electronic, metal enclosure

Mateo Maté (Spanish)
Paisaje Uniformado 23, 2013
Print on canvas

Maynard Monrow (American)
Self Portrait, 2010
Neon, mixed media

Steve Mumford (American)
Empire, 2010
Oil on linen

Sam Nhlengethwa (South African)
The Nightshift, 2011
Woven mohair tapestry

Toyin Ojih Odutola (Nigerian)
Changing Circumstances: Changing Attitudes, 2015
Charcoal on board

The Engagement, 2015
Charcoal on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

They, 2015
Charcoal on paper
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Walter Oltmann (South African)
Child Skull, 2013
Aluminum wire

Shell (Nautilus), 2011
Aluminum wire

Hans Op de Beeck (Belgian)
Night Time, 2015
Video with sound, running time 18:40 minutes

Silvana Pestana and Sonia Cunliffe (Peruvian)
Desarraigo, 2013
Mixed media on wood

Desarraigo, 2013
Video installation

Paul Rucker (American)
Proliferation, 2010
Video animation with sound, running time 10:45 minutes

September 15, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama from Soundless Series, 2013
Spruce wood

Paul Rusconi (American)
Barack Obama, 2008
Digital screen inks on Plexiglas with chromogenic print mounted to Sintra

Graciela Sacco (Argentinian)
Encuentros de la Series Piel de Memoria, 2015
Mixed media on silk

Victory (from the Body to Body series), 1996- 2012
Heliography on photo-emulsified panels

Alyson Shotz (American)
Magnetic Force, 2011
Mirror polished stainless steel, stainless steel balls, neodymium magnets

Travis Somerville (American)
American Dream I, 2013
Graphite and charcoal on cotton sack

American Dream II, 2013
Graphite and charcoal on cotton sack

Crowd Source, 2015
Graphite on paper

In America We Trusted, 2011
Pencil on vintage money bags

Grethe Sørensen (Danish)
Rush Hour 6, 2010
Jacquard weaving with cotton threads

Andrea Stanislav (American)
Ghost Portrait I, 2008
Front etched mirrored glass, enamel spray paint, glitter nail polish

Ghost Portrait II, 2008
Front etched mirrored glass, enamel spray paint, glitter nail polish

Ghost Portrait III, 2008
Front etched mirrored glass, enamel spray paint, glitter nail polish

Ghost Portrait IV, 2008
Front etched mirrored glass, enamel spray paint, glitter nail polish

Mikhael Subotzky (South African)
Cell 25, Voorberg Prison, 2004
Archival pigment print on cotton rag paper

Cell 508b, Pollsmoor Prison, 2004
Archival pigment print on cotton rag paper

Hank Willis Thomas (American)
And I Can’t Run, 2013
Screen print on retroreflective

Baron of the Crossroads, 2012
Digital chromogenic print and plexi with Lumisty film

Intentionally Left Blanc, 2012
Digital chromogenic print

Raise Up, 2014
Bronze

Gülin Hayat Topdemir (Turkish)
Blind Lover, 2012
Oil on canvas

Companions, 2012
Oil on canvas

Frohawk Two Feathers (American)

Beer, Braaivleis, Battle; The Battle of Cape Agulhas, 1792, 2011
Acrylic and tea on paper

Carrie Mae Weems (American)

Untitled (from the Hampton Project), 2000
Inkjet print on canvas

Michael Wesely (German)
20.5 – 31.5.2006 from Tulpen Series, 2006
Lambda print

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