Into Dust: Traces of the Fragile in Contemporary Art
June 6, 2015 – October 25, 2015
Uncover a layered concept of fragility through contemporary works from the Museum’s collection, including examples by Gabriel Orozco, Alina Szapocznikow, and Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The fragile nature of the human condition has been an enduring subject for artists throughout history. Into Dust presents the many ways in which contemporary artists confront the concept, sharing a sensitivity to both the physical aspects and allegorical connotations of the materials with which they work. This manifests in deeply personal engagements with the human body, nature, and the passage of time, as expressed in a stylistic language of medium and form that is both ephemeral and resilient. The “dust” alluded to in the exhibition’s title echoes the objects’ intrinsic propensity toward impermanence and disintegration. Probing the distinctions between the corporeal and transcendental, emergence and decay, belonging and displacement, life and death, the works in this exhibition both reveal and question the political, spiritual, and psychological forces that shape who we are.
Ranging from painting, sculpture, and photography to slide projection and video, Into Dust draws upon the philosophy of influential artist Joseph Beuys, who advocated for an expanded notion of the art object beyond its three-dimensional form. As exemplified in his featured Multiple from 1966, Zwei Fräulein mit leuchtendem Brot (Two Fräuleins with Shining Bread), Beuys fostered a deep respect for the material reality of daily life as well as the spiritual capacity of humankind.
Into Dust also includes the work of Alan Saret, Alan Sonfist, and Giuseppe Penone. Traditionally associated with the art movements of Post-Minimalism and Arte Povera, these artists embraced an avant-garde impulse toward experimentation through an innovative use of material—such as electrical wire, soil, and river stone—and an emphasis on process. Other artists, such as Mona Hatoum, Alfredo Jaar, and Lorna Simpson, invoke fragility to articulate a critique of social and political realities, reflective of the theory-driven and psychologically charged practices that swept the art world in the 1980s.
By juxtaposing conceptual and formal concerns, Into Dust invites a reconsideration of fragility through the lens of simultaneous vulnerability and strength. From the meditative to the investigative to the critical, the selection is further illuminated by quotes from the artists to offer a textured image of the fragile.
Amanda Sroka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art
Special Exhibitions Gallery, first floor, Perelman Building