An elegy is a song or poem expressing sorrow or mourning, often reflecting on someone who has died. This exhibition explores how artists have created visual elegies to respond to death, tragedy, and violence.
When the arts address grief, is their role to be cathartic, allowing the artists to express and viewers to feel intense emotion? Are they meant to be catalytic, instigating actions to rectify circumstances surrounding deaths that were unnecessary, unjust, and atrocious? Do the works offer some a sense of commiseration and comfort? The goal of this exhibition is to create a space for thinking about these powerful emotions and possible responses.
All the works of art on view are from the museum’s permanent collection, with most created between 1900 and 2000 by artists who either lived or worked in the United States for some part of their careers. The chronological distance allows us to see how artists of the last century worked to keep people, events, and states of being alive in memory and to place the collective grief and trauma of our present moment into a broader context.
Graphic design by Hanna Karraby and Ridge Chin, with creative direction from Luis Bravo
Exhibition design: Natalia Quinteros and Jillian Matthews
Curator: Jessica Smith