Sunday, May 2, 2010

MoMA, Wales

_ A new work for the latest A Book About Death exhibit_

Are we living or dying? We are born. We die. The two sides of this coin are fully explored in the exhibit A Book About Death. The most recent incarnation of this exhibit opened this week at MoMA, Wales. The exhibit continues to make its way around the world with installations this spring in Brazil, San Diego, Belgium and Sarajevo. The original show, which was conceived by artist Matthew Rose arouse organically from social networks linking many artists to a common theme. A big theme, a universal theme that cut across all national, political and cultural boundaries: the theme of death is one we all share.
Artists began contributing to the original exhibit at the Emily Harvey Gallery in NYC by submitting an edition of 500 postcard sized artworks. During the run of the exhibit last fall, viewers were encouraged to collect as many cards as they wished. Some responded by collecting every artist’s contribution, while some collected the cards that spoke to them personally, thereby compiling their own unbound book.
On the heels of recession; where the direction of art, its promotion and how money and power define the aesthetic of our times is again under scrutiny from the actual producers of art, the artist curated group show is on the rise. Whether this signifies any lasting change is open to debate as most artist organized events tend to run out of steam with their lack of a cohesive thread.
The A Book About Death has managed to maintain its momentum precisely because of the gravitas and universality of the subject matter. Whether artists are creating tributes, commenting on senseless loss or valiant struggle, the subject is universal.

Back of my MoMA Wales card (insert on right)

Sonja Benskin Mesher, the curator for the MoMA Wales exhibit came to the project as a way of sharing her reaction to the recent loss of her husband Philip.

Her drawings and paintings of the chair that Philip sat in became a powerful symbol for her loss that she contributed to the original NYC exhibit. Sonja received a box containing the entire exhibit from our mutual friend Mara Thompson who had recently mounted the exhibit at Otis College of Art and Design in California. The box has quietly rested on Philip's chair in Wales waiting to be opened during the installation in Machynlleth, Wales. As Sonja removed each card from the box, she entered the name of each artist in the Book of the Living. Her account of finally opening the box literally brought tears to my eyes.

Sonja Benskin Mesher's Book of the Living (photo courtesy of the artist)

The MoMA Wales exhibit runs through May 8th.

Concurrently the show is also in Belgium at Exit11 and ASA Gallery in Sarajevo

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