'In Solitude,' but in the company of great art
A new exhibition at the ASU Art Museum on the Tempe campus poses a challenge for visitors: disconnect, tune in to a moment of quiet self-reflection and find rejuvenation in solitude.
“In Solitude, Where We Are Least Alone” — which runs until Nov. 8 — was curated from the museum’s permanent collection by Brittany Corrales, a Windgate curatorial assistant and graduate student in art history, and supported by the Evelyn Smith Exhibition Fund.
Corrales has been a curatorial assistant at the museum for over a year, working a great deal with new acquisitions to museum’s collections, said Heather Lineberry, associate director and senior curator at the museum.
“We were so impressed by her skills and her mastery of professional curatorial practice that we invited her to curate this exhibition,” Lineberry said.
For Corrales, the pleasures of quiet seclusion in the company of art was her guiding inspiration for the exhibition, which contains works across multiple mediums from the early 20th century to the present.
"(I hoped to) make this contemplative, meditative space in the museum again, to sort of compliment what’s going on in the museum world, which is making these really interactive, activated environments,” she said.
The rise of these more interactive, experiential exhibitions also happens to be the topic of Corrales’s masters thesis, but it left her craving more of a contemplative space within the museum, so she culled from the works she was reading at the time — Henry David Thoreau’s "Walden," Ralph Waldo Emerson’s "Self-Reliance" and Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" — to guide the process of curating her first exhibition from the more than 12,000 pieces in the museum’s possession.
Corrales began by combing through The Museum System and the museum’s vaults to find pieces that spoke to the theme. As she collected potential pieces to show, she said she started putting them into categories like Man in Nature, Man Looking Inward and the darker aspects of solitude.
She worked closely with Lineberry and the entire museum team to bring this exhibition to fruition — but not without a few challenges along the way.
“The hardest thing for me in the process was cutting out about fifteen works that didn’t make it into the show,” she said. “The works needed more space to breathe.”
Thirty pieces ranging from sculpture to photography to paintings made it into the final show, including a powerful installation by Robert D. Farber called “Sorry for the Interruption.”
The installation of video and photographs was made during the artist’s stay on Fire Island, New York, in the ‘90s while he battled with the AIDS and thoughts of his mortality. The video begins with an idyllic beach scene overlaid with cheery music. On the horizon, a black dot appears and gradually fills the screen as a high pitched ringing cuts out the music and a prompt appears: “Sorry for the Interruption, Please Stand By.”
The piece becomes not only an expression of the artist’s isolation but a dedication to the lives destroyed by AIDS and HIV.
“He passed away the year after he made this piece (of complications from AIDS),” Corrales noted, “so it’s definitely one of the stronger pieces in the show.”
Corrales hopes a lot of ASU students take the time to come to free exhibition, as it is relevant to everyone living in our hyper-connected society.
“We’re feeling more alone than ever, so I think that when we’re hyper-connected in that way; we’re always not being mindful; we’re looking outside ourselves to different people and things to make ourselves feel complete and happy. I don’t think that’s necessarily good,” she said. “You’re distracted by everything, and it can be really overwhelming. This museum, and in particular that exhibition, really is meant to cultivate an experience for the visitor that is full, rich, and reflective.”
The formal opening reception for the exhibition — as well as the museum’s fall season at large — is on Thursday, Oct. 2 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Corrales will be giving an in-depth Gallery Talk on the exhibition on Wednesday, Oct. 15, from noon to 1 p.m. RSVP to the Gallery Talk here.
Visit the exhibition anytime Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (8 p.m. on Tuesdays).
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Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Heather Lineberry's role with the ASU Art Museum. She is the associate director and senior curator there.