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In an ambitious exhibition featuring two new installation-based commissions, artist Taryn Simon activates the rituals of applause and the cold water plunge, examining individuals’ campaigns for public admiration, the status of physical community spaces in the digital age, and our persistent desire for a quick fix.
Children learn to seek applause from an early age — an ambition for approval that continues to shape public performances. Clapping transmits contagiously: individuals clap to signal consensus, out of love, to join the crowd.
Cold water plunges — on holy days, as viral stunts, or as solitary strategies for personal reset — have a long history of notable participants. Apache leader Geronimo employed cold-water immersion to prepare boys for manhood and battle. Russian President Vladimir Putin observed the tradition of reenacting Christ’s baptism by plunging into cold water on Epiphany, instead of watching President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Rooted in the artist’s longtime interest in the systems that support power structures, and building on her recent work with sound, thresholds, and sculpture, Simon’s uncompromising, timely exhibition examines how public performance collides with private intentions and experiences. Filling the museum’s expansive first-floor galleries, Simon’s exhibition features large-scale immersive works — ASSEMBLED AUDIENCE + A COLD HOLE — as well as the first-ever major museum installation of the artist’s bookwork.
How does the experience of reading poetry differ from the experience of looking at a painting? What reveries can a poem evoke that a painting cannot, and vice versa? Presenting a selection of paintings in oil and ink by the prolific Arab-American artist Etel Adnan, alongside a small reading room with her written works, A yellow sun A green sun a yellow sun A red sun a blue sun focuses on the possibility of expression within and beyond the limits of communication. For Adnan, painting and poetry are two languages of many that she has mastered over a lifetime. Like a translator, she moves between them in pursuit of pure meaning.
Refreshments provided by Guido’s Fresh Marketplace.
Principal exhibition support for Taryn Simon: Assembled Audience + A Cold Hole is provided by Raymond Learsy and Mary Ann and Bruno A. Quinson. Related programming is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Mass Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Etel Adnan: A yellow sun A green sun a yellow sun A red sun a blue sun is made possible by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in support of MASS MoCA and the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, and with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States. The exhibition is curated by Elise Chagas, a second-year student in the Williams College Graduate Program.
Major exhibition support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Barr Foundation, and the Mass Cultural Council.