Inspired by American artist John Cage’s 1952 composition 4’33”, Silence and Time explores the work of contemporary artists who have addressed issues of absence, presence, and temporality through their creative process. Drawn primarily from the holdings of the Dallas Museum of Art and local collections, this new exhibition, installed in the Museum’s Barrel Vault and Quadrant Galleries, reflects on these themes through a presentation of work in all media.
Cage’s controversial work comprises three movements—the first being thirty seconds, the second two minutes and twenty-three seconds, and the third one minute and forty seconds—arranged for any instrument or combination of instruments. All of the movements are performed without a single note being played. The content of this composition is meant to be perceived as the sound of the environment that the listener hears while it is performed, rather than as four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence.
By insisting that we pay attention to both what is and is not present in a work of art, Cage asked audiences to take note of conditions that engage our senses in different ways; measures of time, silence, and sound take on new and different meaning. Likewise, works included in this exhibition, produced between 1958 and 2010 by a broad range of international artists, propose direct and indirect connections to the many different ways we experience solitude, reflection, and the passing and recording of time—both literally and conceptually—in a work of art, and in our daily life.
The exhibition will be anchored in the Barrel Vault by three sculptures by James Lee Byars: the colossal Figure of Death, 1986, a twenty-three foot tower of basalt; Is, 1989, a gilded marble orb; and Eros, 1992, two suggestive slabs of conjoined Thassos marble. Also on view will be a newly acquired work by the Bosnian-French artist Bojan Šarčević, She, a 1.7-ton onyx sculpture with one side carved and polished and the other left in its natural state. One of the Quadrant Galleries will be devoted to video installations by Anri Sala and Paul Pfeiffer, while another will link the processes of painting in monumental canvasses by Larry Poons, Morris Louis, and Sterling Ruby. Other artists in the exhibition include Gerhard Richter, Reinhard Mucha, Lee Ufan, Mario Merz, Roman Opalka, and Félix González-Torres, and many others.