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U.S. TEXAS. The Menil Collection presents "Silence" (July 27–October 21, 2012)
19/07/2012 10:21:21

Whether experienced as a source of inspiration, enigmatic force, or unsettling limbo zone, silence is elusive in today’s world. Inspired by John Cage’s 1952 groundbreaking composition 4’33″, Silence—co-organized by the Menil Collection and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive—offers a thorough and stirring exploration of the exhibition’s subject.

Conceived by Toby Kamps, Menil curator of modern and contemporary art, the exhibition means to “examine a few of the many attempts in which artists have employed the absence of sound or speech over the last century.” These attempts, Kamps added, have embraced silence as phenomenon, metaphor, force—and as an environmental state expressed in performance. Silence can also possess and convey powerful political meaning.

Ranging from uncanny to incantatory to experiential, the broad range of works on view in the exhibition are not all without sound, but all reflect the many ways in which artists invoke silence to shape space and consciousness.

Beginning with forebears Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte, the exhibition advances to a number of artists who came of age in the 1950s and 60s, including Robert Rauschenberg and Ad Reinhardt, and such European contemporaries as Josef Beuys and Yves Klein.

Silence builds on selections from 20th-century masters with challenging recent work by younger artists. Among the show’s paintings, sculptures, performances, sound, and video works are the iconic Box with the Sound of Its Own making by Robert Morris; a work by Bruce Nauman, Violence Violins Silence; and documentation of the performance piece One Year Performance by Tehching Hsieh.

The BAM/PFA film and video component of the exhibition, “The Sounds of Silence”—developed by that institution’s video curator, Steve Seid—features a selection of groundbreaking films that investigate the influence of sound on moving images and also the sometimes-intertwined sources of sound and images. The three-part film and video program includes works by 21 filmmakers, videographers, and intermedia artists.

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