Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art unveils four distinctive exhibits

Lisa Oppenheim, Elizabeth Rudensky. Right dorsal curve. Scoliosis - real spinal case-bad. Showing wrong kind of occupation for this physical defect., 2016, Dye sublimation print on aluminum, diptych: Left panel 33 7/8 inches; Right panel 24 5/8 inches, 42 1/8 x 58 1/2 inches (overall). Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.
Lisa Oppenheim: “Elizabeth Rudensky. Right dorsal curve. Scoliosis – real spinal case-bad. Showing wrong kind of occupation for this physical defect., 2016”

Fri 1/27 @ 7PM

The relationship of the spine to labor is just one many different notions explored beautifully at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which unveils four artistic explorations of different elements of the human condition. Each exhibition opens Fri 1/27 at the Cleveland venue.

CoolCleveland talked to MOCA senior curator Andria Hickey about the new exhibitions.

Wow, MOCA has four different exhibitions opening simultaneously.

I think big things happen at this museum quite frequently, but the last few months we’ve been really working hard to bring a really great impactful group of artists together in the museum at the same time. We want to give our visitors a really dynamic experience of many different kinds of artworks and artists from different parts of the world. The combination of all of the artists we’re working with kind of gives something for everyone, but also really creates dynamic experiences as you move through the museum. There’s an energy that we definitely want to share with our visitors.

While each exhibit covers different ground, do you see a through line?

I do really think we’ve got four really distinctive projects here, but I can say all of the artists that we’re working with definitely share a relationship with the real world. This is not just art about art. All of the artists on view are really looking at our visual culture, the lived experience of people, workers, materials that have impacted them in points of history. They are artists that are outward looking at the world we live in to inform the things that they make and mirror back to us and for us to understand or have a greater depth of understanding in terms of negotiating the world we live in. There are issues of what does it mean to be a black person in America right now? There are issues about labor and manufacturing. There are issues about being a woman. There are questions of who we are, how we work, how we live, and the artists are looking at the things outside of their experience and sometimes in their experience to mirror back to us new ideas, new ways of thinking.

Let’s look at each exhibit beginning with Adam Pendleton’s Becoming Imperceptible.

It’s his largest museum exhibition to date and it brings together an exemplary group of works that illustrates his practice. There’s a fantastic film profiling David Hilliard, one of the founding members of the Black Panthers, that Adam interviewed and presents in this really interesting subjective almost abstractive way through three-channel video installation. You walk through the exhibition hearing their conversation, which is quite intimate. And you are looking at images that are about navigating the avant-garde and its relationship with two political movements: the Civil Rights Movement and African Independence Movement.

Turning to Lisa Oppenheim’s Spine, what comes to mind?

This is her first museum solo exhibition. Lisa is probably most well known as a photographer, although she very infrequently uses a camera. She’s really interested in kind of experimental photographic processes. This exhibition focuses on the poetic idea of the spine through three different bodies of works. Really at the core of that exhibition is her exploration of the work of documentary photographer Lewis Hine, who shot images of young women textile workers in the 1920s and 1930s where their backs had been misshapen and damaged by their work. Previously, Lisa had been working on what she calls “Landscape Portraits,” which are really photographs of different species of word grain. She’s been thinking about the strength, the core of the spine, of the tree, and then it was encountering these images of women and the kind of history inside their bodies of that experience of labor. The third body of work is a series of textiles that are based or derived from images of pre-Columbian textiles that Lisa found in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collection. She’s really interested in the technology of the loom and its relationship of labor. The loom almost being a precursor to a computer or digital process that shifted our questions of labor.

Tell us about Jeremy Deller’s exhibition.

He’s a really special artist from the U.K. I don’t think any of his work has been shown in Cleveland. The videos on view are really dynamic. They’re humorous but at the same time they’re quite poetic, and in different points they deal with questions about working class culture in the U.K. and manufacturing. There’s quite a lot of visual connection to, I think, the landscape of Cleveland, especially around steel-working.

What makes Zarouhie Abdalian Transport Empty unique?

This is a sound installation by a young artist from New Orleans whose major piece is based on field recordings of different places of work — a place where people get an hourly wage and the sounds of what that work is. It’s very abstract but you have this kind of poetic experience as you move through the building in that stairway of hearing those kinds of familiar yet sort of unknown sounds.

Finally, how do these exhibits epitomize the spirit of MOCA?

MOCA’s mission is to show the most dynamic contemporary art of our time here. I think we’re bringing together a really fantastic group of artists who have never shown here in Cleveland before to really engage with our local community and really demonstrate how contemporary art can change the way we think and provoke questions, and engage us in a critical-thought process. And how important it is in our daily lives to have voices that allow us to imagine new possibilities.

The shows run through Sun 5/14.


[Written by John Benson]

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