What lies below, within, or beyond a surface? The question guides “Little Lower Layer”, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) until October 1st. Featuring nine international artists – including Runo Lagomarsino, Swedish artist nominated for PIPA Prize 2014 –, the group show “scrambles, punctures and otherwise interrogates surfaces” to expose withheld images, uncover buried stories, and question entrenched narratives of power and control.
Drawn largely from the MCA collection and spanning the 1970s to the present, the works displayed literally break down walls (case of Kate Gilmore‘s video performance “Between a Hard Place”, in which she punches and kicks walls dressed in a cocktail dress and stilettos) and scrape away paint (Jack Whitten‘s “Pink Psyche Queen” at once conceal and reveal repressed symbols on canvas) to engage in a proposition of change, moving from the simple portraiture of reality towards what it could become.
The title comes from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, in which Captain Ahab is transfixed by his quest to hunt down the white whale. Yearning to grasp the mystery at the center of his obsession, he is certain that some “little lower layer” of meaning exists below the veneer of appearances that masks the truth. “If man will strike, strike through the mask!” he declares. “How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?” With an eye toward withheld images and untold stories, the artists in this exhibition challenge us to look deeply, think critically, and confront a politics of what we can—and cannot—see, discuss, and access.
Watch a clip of Kate Gilmore’s performance “Between a Hard Place”:
“Little Lower Layer”, group show featuring Margot Bergman, Paul Chan, Isa Genzken, Kate Gilmore, Helen Mayer Harrison, Newton Harrison, Kenneth Josephson, Runo Lagomarsino, Jason Lazarus, Esther Parada, Pamela Rosenkranz, Simon Starling, Michelle Stuart and Jack Whitten
Curated by Nina Wexelblatt
On view from June 3rd through October 1st, 2017
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA)
220 E Chicago Ave
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