Contemporary artists struggle with the weight of what has come before them and how to make new contributions to the field. Painting is one of the oldest of artistic traditions, and many artists; including Anselm Kiefer, Elizabeth Murray and Rashid Johnson; whose paintings are brought together in Burden of History, create works that seem to physically reflect the negotiation with that tradition. Sculptors too; including Do Ho Suh, Katharina Fritsch and Jeff Koons; deal with the figure in ways that offer fresh insights and at times embrace materials not often associated with sculpture, as in the use of stainless steel military dog tags assembled by Do Ho Suh in his monumental sculpture Some/One.
Artists often address their own history in their work. For example, Home to Go, a sculpture by Albanian-born artist Adrian Paci, was born from a life-changing experience. In 1997, during the political upheaval and civil war in his homeland, Paci was forced to immigrate to Italy. Using his body as the model to create the figure, Home to Go stands as both a metaphor and a literal translation of the profound physical and psychological effects of cultural displacement. Revealing the relationships between history and contemporaneity, the artworks in Burden of History highlight great works within SAM’s Modern and Contemporary Art Collection.