The Chrysler Museum’s latest exhibition started with a couple of hard questions:
How to put on a show when museums aren’t loaning and shipping art during a pandemic?
But, more importantly, how can the Chrysler help people during a time of isolation and fear?
The answers turned out to be easy.
The community needs to be reminded that it is still a community, the staff realized, and the museum can show them by looking no farther than its own collection.
The Chrysler Museum of Art will open “Come Together, Right Now: The Art of Gathering” on Oct. 11 to run through Jan. 3, 2021. The show include more than 100 works that examine the pleasures and pains that are inherent when people gather, from family celebrations to social movements to religious rituals that ground people. The show is divided into four themes of “togetherness” — together in celebration, together in purpose, together in love and together in justice.
“Together in Justice” includes pieces that highlight cultural and racial divisions, public demonstrations and public participation such as through elections. The museum wants the public to submit digital photos that could fall under the justice theme. While COVID quarantines required physical isolation, months of social protests have produced instances of divisiveness and separation. The momentum, though, has also created coalitions among people who might not have ever worked together. The submissions will be reviewed by local artist Dawit N.M. and Seth Feman, the Chrysler’s Museum’s curator of photography. Selected images will be projected within the show.
The museum saw an opportunity to come together and build a show with its community.
“We wanted to make sure that we came at this from a very different angle, that when we mean “come together,” we mean coming together as an institution to answer this urgent question,” said Lloyd DeWitt, the Chrysler Museum’s chief curator and Irene Leache Curator of European Art. "It’s been exciting to answer this question of ‘What can art do?’ You feel kind of powerless because we’re not doctors, but, in fact, we came away feeling this is really powerful stuff here.
“We can make a huge difference and, yes, we can break down these barriers that this disease has thrown up, and reach people.”
DeWitt said the staff thought of other ways to create a broader sense of community. The museum is launching a “Together in Justice” Book Club Series next month that will run through December. In addition, several pieces in the show will be reproduced on large banners to be displayed throughout Norfolk, the bulk along the Elizabeth River Trail. It will allow people who feel uncomfortable coming into the museum because of COVID-19 to still see some of the pieces in the show.
DeWitt said that once the museum’s curatorial staff came up with the exhibition idea, it sent out a mass email to everyone on staff to get input on art pieces that could be included in the idea of “coming together.” The response was vast and overwhelming and produced the four themes.
The suggestions included large-scale to small pieces, from sculpture, glass, painting and photography.
“Together in Celebration” will exhibit times of ease and play such as through sports and dancing. Art pieces such as a Mayan ceramic work showing a ball game and the image “Baptism” by Pulitzer-prize winning photographer Preston Gannaway will be on display.
“Together in Purpose” features images of people coming together for a common cause and will include photographs of Soviet women harvesting grain and rulers like the Roman Emperor Nero exuding power.
“Together in Justice” will highlight historical material with particular attention to photography from the Civil Rights movement.
“Together in Love” looks at attachment, attraction, passion and friendship such as the famous kinship of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and musician Patti Smith.
DeWitt said it is not only a meaningful show but it is allowing the museum to bring out pieces that don’t get displayed that often.
“A lot of nonprofits have been asking, ‘What do people need right now,’ and they need each other, they need community, they need to know that these values are enduring,” DeWitt said. “They need to know that we will come out of this and reengage in ways that are spectacular.”
if you go
What “Come Together, Right Now: The Art of Gathering;” Oct. 11 – Jan. 3, 2021, Chrysler Museum of Art, One Memorial Place, Norfolk.
Member Preview Days
Oct. 9-10 from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Free. Registration required for tours. Visit chrysler.org for more information.
Together in Justice Book Club Series
Free. Registration required. The series includes books about race and justice. Each book club meeting will be hosted via Zoom. All book selections are available for purchase from The Museum Shop. Register at chrysler.org. The books and schedule are:
Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. 1/4 u2502 “This is What I Know About Art” by Kimberly Drew.
Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. 1/4 u2502 “White Fragility” Robin DiAngelo.
Nov. 29 at 3 p.m. 1/4 u2502"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. 1/4 u2502 “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson.
Call (757) 664-6200 or visit chrysler.org for more information.
Denise M. Watson, 757-446-2504,firstname.lastname@example.org
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