While most of society turns its back on mortality, artists have long grappled with questions about life, death, and what lies beyond. Alluding to "Hamlet," Maya Angelou once said, "the only true escape is death, but even that is that undiscovered country from whose bourn, you know, no traveler returns.”
In October, the Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art (HVMOCA) debuted "Death is Irrelevant: Selections from the Marc and Livia Straus Collection, 1975–2018." Featuring 26 works from internationally recognized artists such as Damien Hirst (UK), Sam Jinks (Australia), Kiki Smith (USA), Folkert de Jong (Netherlands), and Paweł Althamer (Poland), the exhibition delves headfirst into our timeless inclination as human beings to recreate ourselves while tremulously exploring the boundaries of our fragile mortality.
On March 17, co-curator Tim Hawkinson, collector/curator Sarena Straus, and the New Museum’s Kraus Family Curator Gary Carrion-Murayari will attempt to tackle these difficult concepts through a panel discussion entitled “Figurative Sculpture in Social Critique: Curating the Straus Family Collection.” Moderated by Hyperallergic editor and Minerva Projects founding director Yasmeen Siddiqui, panelists will discuss the use of the body as medium and message in sculpture as well as the process and challenges of curating a museum exhibition from a private collection.
The collaborative discussion will prompt participants to ask: in what ways do sculptures represent our will to live? Are sculptures a product of the artist’s life or do they express a desire to define or defy immortality? Organized in collaboration with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and supported by Arts Westchester and the Westchester County Government, the panel will focus on Polish artist Paweł Althamer’s work “The Power of Now.”
The sculpture depicts a dejected welder hunched over on a park bench and is accompanied by an audio recording of excerpts from Eckhart Tolle’s self-help book “The Power of Now.” The strong contrast between the disheartened protagonist and the inspirational soundtrack urges viewers to question how modern understandings of spirituality and religion are confined to class and socio-political structures. Through “The Power of Now,” Althamer illustrates how the body acts as a vehicle for social, political, and conceptual ideologies.
Join the conversation on March 17 at the HVMOCA, a cultural space that aims to spark dialogue and question the way that art contributes to or challenges our ideologies and livelihood. The talk will also discuss the Straus Family Collection’s relation to the exhibition and the limitations of the private collection, as well as celebrate the publication of “Ideas Don’t Die,” an essay by Hawkinson.