Spring 2018 Exhibition Explores The Paradox of Vision in Contemporary Art
Works by more than 20 artists, including Terry Adkins, Sophie Calle, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ann Hamilton, Glenn Ligon, Carmen Papalia, and Lorna Simpson explore the implications of blindness and invisibility
Brunswick, Maine, November 15, 2017 — Opening on March 1, 2018, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art will present Second Sight: the Paradox of Vision in Contemporary Art, an exhibition that examines themes of the nonvisual in contemporary American art. Examining blindness as a physiological and cultural construct, the exhibition encourages museumgoers to consider the primacy of visual experience, and challenge conventions of visual representation, which has marginalized groups throughout American history. Featuring over 35 sculptural, sound, language-based, conceptual, and immersive artworks by artists who include Terry Adkins, William Anastasi, Sophie Calle, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Joseph Grigely, Ann Hamilton, Glenn Ligon, Carmen Papalia, and Lorna Simpson, Second Sight explores the notion of sight, representation, and ability as social concepts.
“Second Sight challenges us to consider what can be grasped when we think beyond what lies in plain sight, providing a forum for conversations about difference and new scholarship in the politics of race, class, and ability in contemporary art,” said Bowdoin College Museum of Art Co-Director Anne Goodyear. “Building on her own research, as well as insights from outside scholars and Bowdoin’s own students, faculty, and staff, Second Sight curator Ellen Tani prompts us to question the art world’s all-too-frequent privileging of visual perception, asking visitors to question, both literally and figuratively, what, how, and why we see,” continued Bowdoin College Museum of Art Co-Director Frank Goodyear. “This type of questioning is of critical importance, especially on college campuses today, to prompt viewers to explore and unpack implicit biases in contemporary visual culture.”
“The artworks in Second Sight are invested in the nonvisual, whether through their processes of making, by inviting tactile or sonic experience, or taking up such invisible forms of knowledge production as language and conversation,” noted exhibition curator Ellen Tani, Ph.D. “Through their work, artists investigate alternative frameworks for perception, often occupying its margins—responding to conditions of invisibility as well as what cannot be represented—through radical experimentation.”
Second Sight will include a range of works by contemporary artists that point to ways of knowing beyond visual observation and consider the invisible societal, political, and cultural forces that govern our own frameworks of experience. The BCMA will pair highlights from its own collection alongside loans from artists’ studios and estates, galleries, foundations, and institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Highlights from the exhibition include:
• Multidisciplinary artist Terry Adkins’s sound sculpture Off Minor (2004), from his recital Black Beethoven: Recital in Nine Dominions, which explores the speculation of Beethoven’s purported mixed-race heritage.
• Selections from French conceptual artist Sophie Calle’s series Les Aveugles (The Blind) (1986), which presents photo- and text-based installations based on the artist’s interviews with a dozen non-sighted individuals.
• “Untitled” (Water) (1995) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, an interactive work made up of strands of aquamarine plastic beads that hang from a metal rod spanning a passageway.
• A new site-specific installation by social practice artist and disability activist Carmen Papalia, premiering at the BCMA, will consist of performance documentation such as text-based banners, photographs, and other ephemera reflecting the artist’s collaboration with members of the campus community on the subject of nonvisual learning.
• Lorna Simpson’s Cloudscape (2004), a single-shot video piece that features Terry Adkins vanishing behind a curtain of fog, balancing his visual disappearance with the continued soundtrack of his whistling voice.
The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue edited by curator Ellen Tani and will serve as a significant contribution to the study of contemporary art, race theory, and disability studies, featuring contributions from Amanda Cachia, Joseph Grigely, Shaun Leonardo, Tony Lewis, Nyeema Morgan, and Gala Porras-Kim. In coordination with the exhibition, the Museum is designing programs, materials, and tours to make the exhibition accessible to visitors of all abilities in accordance with best practices guidelines for museum accessibility.