Timed with the 5th anniversary of MOCA Cleveland’s, the exhibition “A Poet*hical Wager” explores the ethical dimension of works that use abstraction, minimalism, and assemblage to approach complex ideas that cannot be addressed through representation. The title of the exhibition references “The Poethical Wager”, a book by American poet and scholar Joan Retallack.
By Efi Michalarou Photo: Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland Archive
Emblematic of an increasing global dependence on abstract transactions that occur largely outside of our vision and comprehension, the works in the exhibition “A Poet*hical Wager” manifest the complexity of modern life in both form and process. Like the abstract conditions of contemporary life, the relationship between the socio-political landscape of late capitalism and individual experience is complex and often indirect. The word “poethical” inserts the notion of ethics, or responsibility, into aesthetics, providing a framework for understanding how artists navigate this abstract space and extend the hermeneutics of the art object to real world subjects. Bringing together works that point to places and situations beyond the walls of the museum (from New York City on 9/11 to the Museum of Ctesiphon in Baghdad, the site of the Berlin Wall, and the ruins of utopian architecture in Santa María Ahuacatitlán in Mexico) the exhibition suggests that understanding the complexity of abstraction in contemporary art now lies as much in the subject matter of the work as it does in its formal considerations. The exhibition features existing work, newly commissioned pieces, and site-specific installations that respond to local circumstances. Abraham Cruzvillegas’s large-scale hanging sculpture “Definitely unfinished poethnical self portrait (with a rusty belt)” (2017), was made on-site from found objects gathered from demolition sites in Cleveland. Rashid Johnson has realized “Shea Wall” (2015) for the first time in a gallery space. The wall of cinderblock and shea butter is a re-imagining of Alan Kaprow’s “Sweet Wall”, originally erected near the Berlin Wall in 1970. Iman Issa presents three works from her ongoing series, “Heritage Studies” (2015– ), two of which have been commissioned for the exhibition. Oscar Murillo site-specific installation transforms the gallery architecture using painted black canvas, alongside a presentation of works from his “Frequencies” archive. Lara Favaretto’s “Momentary Monument: The Library” (2012), installed in the Museum’s publicly accessible Cahoon Lounge, redistributes 2200 deaccessioned books from a local library, now transformed with images inserted from the artist’s own archive as takeaway objects for visitors.
Info: Curator: Andria Hickey, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 11400 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Duration 7/10/17-28/1/18, Days & Hours: Tue-Thu 11:00-18:00, Fri 11:00-21:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-17:00, http://mocacleveland.org