Nohemí Pérez (Colombian, born 1962), Painting Number 1
Nohemí Pérez (Colombian, born 1962), Painting Number 1, from the series El Palmar, 2022, Oil on canvas, Museum Purchase with funds provided by Northern Trust Purchase Prize at EXPO Chicago 2022, Keith and Sharon Barnes, Pat and Trudy Ritz, and Diane and Herb Rankin, 2022.13.2

Traces

Jul 30, 2022 – Feb 26, 2023

Now on view in the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art, Traces presents poetic reflections on memory in contemporary art. Art has long played a role in aiding memory by depicting detailed stories in history painting, epic poems, or song cycles. It is also a space for artists to give physical forms to cerebral or emotional sensations. This exhibition, featuring recent acquisitions alongside artworks borrowed from private collections, showcases seven international artists who evocatively capture the traces of events, people, or places, as remembrances of real experiences or projections of imagined ones. 

Works by three artists reflect upon how memory, experience, and place intertwine. In Unsettled (Jerusalem), Cornelia Parker gathered discarded pieces of wood from the streets of that Middle Eastern city. Suspended together to hover just above the gallery floor, these simple objects conjure thoughts of the region’s conflict as well as feelings of society’s precarity. In her Reconstructions series of prints, Huma Bhabha draws on top of photographs of architecture and landscape that she took on a visit to her home country of Pakistan. Her gestures suggest the layers of subjective memories that shape perceptions of shared public spaces. Theaster Gates uses roofing materials like tar, bitumen, copper nails, and wood to connect the trade learned from his father to his pursuit of abstract painting.

Anne Chu, Nohemí Pérez, and Maja Ruznic depict the figure and each uniquely attests to the way memories are indelibly centered around human action and our perceptions of each other. As a refugee from the war in the former Yugoslavia, Ruznic draws on personal and collective memories of this trauma to convey hidden, or buried, aspects of the psyche. Ruznic likens her painting process to emerging from a dream: thin layers of oil paint reveal ghostly figures and as shapes bleed into each other, borders between human, nature, and memory symbolically also dissolve. 

Tatiana Trouvé explores memory’s fallibility in two large drawings that consider the sense of loss when memory fails. As she explains, “I try to leave things open to a form of disorientation and the possibility of navigation. I am more sensitive to the physical and mental wavering that the works can produce than I am attentive to a position from which they should be seen or understood in this or that way.” 

Curated by Sara Krajewski, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Supported in part by Exhibition Series Sponsors.

Learn more about Nohemí Pérez’s Palmar series, from which three powerful works were recently acquired for the Museum’s collection with generous acquisition support from the Northern Trust Purchase Prize, Sharon and Keith Barnes, Pat and Trudy Ritz, and Diane and Herb Rankin.