Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.
-Susan Sontag, The Aesthetics of Silence, 1967
The Brand Library and curators Renée Martin and Heather Rasmussen are pleased to present Curious Silence, an exhibition that brings together a group of artists working in "silence," or letting something visual they've made speak on their behalf. The selection of artists is related by a shared investment in process and perception specifically—each participant is looking close, doing the time, making calculated and researched interpretations, and visually expressing that process in a compelling, poetic way.
The artists come from a generation influenced by the lives and accomplishments of artistic, critical and performance figures like Susan Sontag, Gloria Steinem, and Rosalind Kraus, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, and Kim Gordon, Marina Abramovic, Sophie Calle and Eleanor Antin. Not only eloquently letting their practices speak for them, they also recognized the powerful and problematic nature of beauty and style in mainstream consciousness. They collectively helped shape public awareness of a new, post-modern femininity that the exhibition artists live and negotiate every day.
While the concept of the show grew out of ongoing conversations the curators shared about their recent re-visiting of Sontag's work, the title of the show was taken from Patrick Moore's Los Angeles Times editorial, written in criticism to Sontag's conservative obituaries that conspicuously omitted her relationship to the gay and lesbian community. Moore argues that Sontag's "lesbian relationships surely affected her work and our understanding of it," and further posited that "continued silence about lesbians in American culture amounts to bias" acutely felt by females living and working in the public sphere.
The idea of women in art and the perceived difference of struggle they may or may not encounter could be seen as cliché (the curators and artists continue to debate this issue.) The artists working here span multiple mediums and visual sensibilities—they address the acutely personal, the overtly commercial, the sublime and the grotesque. But all the work exemplifies a measured critical response to a lived experience of our hyper-visual, information and technology-saturated culture. Whether the work, which much like Sontag's draws from both research and pointed personal experience, can transcend the often pre-conceived or assigned perspective of working as a female, is yet to be seen.
In celebration of the exhibition a publication will be produced with a contributing text by A.S. Hamrah, further investigating both Sontag's writing and the "aesthetics of silence" in relationship to the works in the show. Hamrah lives in Brooklyn, New York and has written for Newsday, the Boston Phoenix and the Los Angeles Times. He is a contributing film critic for n+1, a thrice-yearly print journal of politics, literature, and culture.