Introduction by Sharan Strange
Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917), Study of a hand, modeled ca. 1885, cast before 1912, cast plaster,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gift of Auguste Rodin, 1912
Sometimes, important dialogues in art happen unexpectedly. When they do, the juxtaposition is that much more poignant. The High Museum in Atlanta has two exhibitions up concurrently. The first, Rodin in the United States: Confronting the Modern, organized by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, is a stunning presentation of this artist’s early twentieth-century sculpture. His work is all about the body in space. I had forgotten how sumptuous his sculptures are; their physical presence and sexuality in their forms is so exquisite, one could almost forgive him for the way he treated women in his life (I cannot help but think about his treatment of Camille Claudel). The exhibition at The High is particularly beautiful in its presentation—walls painted in light pastels of pink, green or gray breathe life into these powerful sculptures. Concurrently, Deana Lawson, who works primarily as a photographer, is on view in The High’s photo gallery. This is Lawson’s first museum survey, with over 60 images, organized by the ICA/Boston and MoMA PS1. Lawson’s photographs challenge notions of the Black female body in a multitude of scenarios. The photos are highly charged and voluptuous in ways that are completely different from the Rodin sculptures. Rodin and Lawson are artists from different centuries, continents, and social identities, but both press the boundaries of the human form in their respective mediums in sexually provocative ways. To see them side-by-side in the same museum is intriguing.
This issue of TAS also addresses physicality within the process and realization of artworks in other disciplines. Like many others, I have not thought about all of the individuals who make contemporary performance a reality. Joey Orr’s new book, A Sourcebook of Performance Labor: Activators, Activists, Archives, All, concerns the workers who help to produce the work of artists including Francis Alÿs, Tania Bruguera, Suzanne Lacy, Ernesto Pujol, Asad Raza, Dread Scott, and Tino Sehgal. Joey Orr and Philip Auslander discuss the bodily nature of performance supported by the labor of unsung performers and others. I appreciate this dialogue and Orr’s book, which opens new discussions about the process and presentation of performance art.
Opal Moore has curated and commissioned five poets to create ekphrastic poems on Color + the Body in response to the exhibition Deanna Sirlin: Wavelength. The reading of these verses at Chastain Gallery in Atlanta, where Wavelength was on view, was introduced by Poet Sharan Strange. Poets Melba J Boyd, E. Hughes, Andrea Jurjević, Charleen McClure, Sharrif Simmons, and Opal Moore participated. These works are presented here on pages devoted to each maker and include the poem’s text, the painting that inspired it, an audio reading, and video from the event. The six poems amplify ideas about color and light through dialogue with the artworks. These poets and their words share my relationship to color and the physicality of painting.
Jessica Caldas is an artist who deals with the body through form and color (a palette of reds and pinks) in large, intense fabric sculptures that have played a role in processions. The soft forms and corporeality of Caldas’s sculptures call up the work of artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Sarah Lucas. Her titles include Mother, The Endeavor Funeral Procession, and The Endeavor (prior to birth). Carried through the streets, her large rose-colored forms have given comfort, but also suffered violence. I had the pleasure of having a conversation with Caldas on her process and studio work.
Many thanks to all the artists and writers.
All my best,
The Art Section