Melinda Hunt, video still from  Loneliness in a Beautiful Place , 2018

Melinda Hunt, video still from Loneliness in a Beautiful Place, 2018

In the Presence of Absence
March 27–May 11, 2019

Curated by Jillian Steinhauer

Artists: Inbal Abergil, Emily Carris, Leigh Davis, Valery Jung Estabrook, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Nene Humphrey, Melinda Hunt, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, M. Carmen Lane, Todd Shalom

Opening Events, Wednesday, March 27, 2019:

  • 5:00PM–6:00PM. Curatorial Walkthrough with Jillian Steinhauer and attending artists.

  • 6:00PM–9:00PM: Reception and performance by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Chameleon (The EFA Installments);

In the Presence of Absence explores the creative possibilities of mourning and looks at how people transmute suffering over the loss of loved ones into ways to live.

American society is grounded in the denial of grief. The United States was founded on the slaughter of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans, yet there are no official, national monuments to attest to these crimes or honor their victims. Meanwhile, statues venerating those who perpetrated them—colonizers and missionaries, slaveholders and Confederate soldiers—abound, creating a sanitized and glorified narrative about the roots of this country. Who gets to be memorialized, and whose perspectives are privileged in that process? These unresolved historical traumas and the erasure of violence underpin our present political reality. Some Americans are mourning a version of the country they thought they knew, while others have been unable to escape the consequences of its myths for centuries.

Day to day, American culture treats death as either a public spectacle or a highly private matter. But the attendant sorrow and pain don’t disappear, and time doesn’t heal all wounds; it just changes them. In the Presence of Absence posits that one way to move forward is to deal with our grief—to admit its existence, sit with it, make space for it, and work through it. To hold it in its constancy and discover what it can engender. The artists in this exhibition offer a place to start.

A publication with contributions from Michelle García and Jessica Lynne will follow. The exhibition’s curatorial fellow is Nick Witchey, and curatorial adviser is Meghana Karnik. Melinda Hunt’s work appears courtesy the Canada Council for the Arts.

Confirmed Public Events

  • Saturday, March 30, 2:00 PM–3:30 PM, Artist Talk by Edgar Heap of Birds

  • Thursday, April 11, 6:30 PM–8:30 PM, Good Grief, participatory music event with Todd Shalom

  • Thursday, May 2, 6:30 PM–8:30 PM, panel discussion co-presented by Reimagine End of Life

  • Saturday, May 11, 2:00 PM–4:00 PM, publication launch/reading and exhibition closing

Download the Press Release

About the Curator

Jillian Steinhauer is a journalist and editor living in Brooklyn, NY. Her writing has appeared recently in the New York Times, The New Republic, The Nation, and The Art Newspaper, among other publications. She won the 2014 Best Art Reporting Award from the U.S. chapter of the International Association of Art Critics for her work at Hyperallergic, where she was formerly a senior editor. She writes mainly about art and politics, or the intersection of art and the world, but has been known to go on at length about cats, as in an essay commissioned for the 2015 book Cat Is Art Spelled Wrong (Coffee House Press). She received her master's in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU.

This exhibition is dedicated to Henrietta, Suzanne, and Bronia.