Phantasmagoria: Specters of Absence

Phantasmagoria: Specters of Absence

Curated by José Roca

These artists’ approaches range from the festive to the ironic, counterbalancing the emotionally charged, often somber implications of their subject matter.

The shadow—literally, the absence of light— represents something that is beyond the object yet inseparable from it. In many of the works included in Phantasmagoria, shadows are used to allude to death, the obscure, and the unnamable, and to construct allegories of loss and disappearance. In other pieces, artists evoke the history of the shadow theater, as in a video animation by South African artist William Kentridge, and in the shape-shifting shadow cast by French artist Christian Boltanski’s revolving doll, recalling imagery from the carnival as well as figurines used to celebrate the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Mist, breath, and fog are often associated with mystery; in their double status as perceptible yet almost nonexistent phenomena, they suggest evanescence or absence. Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz has made a series of mirrored surfaces that seem blank until the viewer breathes on them to expose photographic likenesses of people who have died, often under violent circumstances, their images taken from newspaper articles. Mexican artist Teresa Margolles alludes to the dead in much of her art, in this case using vapor to stand in as a metaphor for the absent body, literally incorporating minuscule traces of material washed from corpses in a morgue. Throughout the installations presented here, artists’ use of shadows or actual fog evokes the alluring enigma and magic of phantasmagoria.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with a text by curator José Roca, and a short story by Bruce Sterling.

Julie Nord, The Hands, 2007

Artists

Christian Boltanski, Jim Campbell, Michel Delacroix, Laurent Grasso, Jeppe Hein, William Kentridge, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Teresa Margolles, Oscar Muñoz, Julie Nord, Rosângela Rennó, Regina Silveira

Additional Images

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Sustained Coincidence (Subsculpture 8), 2007

Teresa Margolles, Aire (Air), 2002

William Kentridge, Shadow Procession, 1999

Touring Schedule

Salina Art Center

Salina, Kansas
December 11, 2008 - February 15, 2009

USC Fisher Museum of Art

Los Angeles, California
September 3, 2008 - November 8, 2008

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Sarasota, Florida
May 22, 2008 - August 10, 2008

McColl Center for Visual Art

Charlotte, North Carolina
February 8, 2008 - April 26, 2008

The Contemporary Museum

Honolulu, Hawaii
September 1, 2007 - November 25, 2007

Museo de Arte del Banco de la República

Bogotá, Colombia
March 7, 2007 - June 11, 2007

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