How do we address the scope of what it means to be alive on this planet in 2022? In our multifaceted relationship to the world around us, we are faced with such existential issues as climate change and space exploration, as well as more primal matters such as disease, migration and our influence over other life forms on Earth. The ramifications of these issues are unavoidable, as is our responsibility to be aware of and engage with them. And in the eyes of Miranda Lash, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’s Ellen Bruss Senior Curator
, creativity and art can play a major role in such engagement.
All of these themes and more will coalesce in the MCA’s upcoming summer exhibitions
, featuring the solo shows of three internationally renowned artists — Tania Candiani: For the Animals
; Guadalupe Maravilla: Purring Monsters With Mirrors on Their Backs
; and Clarissa Tossin: Falling From Earth
— on view from Friday, June 3, to August 28. The museum will kick off the shows with an opening party on June 3, followed by a series of programs and events throughout the summer that intend to engage with the artists and their work directly.
“We cover a lot of territory this summer, metaphorically and literally,” says Lash, who is intentionally utilizing the museum's interior architecture to demonstrate the spectrum of “the terrestrial to the celestial.” With Candiani’s vibrational lullabies for animals on the lower level, Maravilla’s sculptural work centered around healing and the body on the first floor, and Tossin dealing with the body's relationship to space on the second floor, Lash observes, “It’s like we move from the Earth to the heavens in this orchestration.”
Lash decided on the three artists after searching for creators with fascinating work that thematically focuses on how we engage with our environment, and how that engagement relates to our well-being as humans. “I feel like there’s this common theme amongst our artists of, ‘What is our responsibility beyond ourselves?’” Lash notes. “It’s a big shift, if you think about it. In the mid-twentieth century, an artist was regarded as important and significant, but their responsibility was to their own practice…and if you’re an artist in 2022, there’s an essential question about how your practice relates to and affects others. Our industry is really looking at artists who think very concertedly beyond themselves and help us situate ourselves in our community.”
Guadalupe Maravilla's "Purring Monster with a Mirror on Its Back," 2021.
Courtesy of Guadalupe Maravilla and P·P·O·W, New York.
In the case of Tania Candiani
, such awareness extends deeply from the natural world, as she creates sensory experiences for both humans and animals using experimental recording devices to explore the “acoustical fabric of the universe,” Lash explains. “Her work is about the geophany, which is all of the sounds that exist on Earth — not just human-made, but those created by geology and by animals.”
Candiani’s telluric work will be showcased in the immersive film For the Animals
, which documents a concert she created for animals of the Sonoran Desert by attaching an acoustic device to the famous Hole in the Rock formation at Papago Park in Arizona and allowing the feedback from the rock itself to inform the concert. In addition to the film, the MCA will host a live concert this summer — with the date to be determined — performed by Candiani. The curatorial team has even connected with Red Rocks Amphitheatre to bring in an assortment of rocks from the iconic park. Candiani will create a feedback loop from the rocks using a recording instrument she calls a "percutor," showcasing how human perception is limited to just a fragment of the spectrum of sound in the universe.
That acoustical exploration continues in Guadalupe Maravilla
’s exhibition, curated by guest curator Larry Ossei-Mensah. Maravilla will display a brand-new sculpture commissioned by the MCA called "Purring Monsters With Mirrors on Their Backs." The piece incorporates six gongs with a variety of materials and objects collected while Maravilla retraced his original migration route from his home country of El Salvador to the U.S. After coming to this country as an unaccompanied minor, he was later diagnosed with colon cancer while in his MFA program. That personal history is deeply tied to his work.
"Purring Monster With Mirrors on Their Backs" is the newest addition to Maravilla’s Disease Throwers
— a large-scale sculptural series that pays homage to Central American healing deities, meant to “throw disease” from invalids' bodies through sound bath activations. The MCA will host Maravilla performing four of these sound baths on July 16 and 17; two will be for the general public, one will be for Spanish speakers, and one will be for cancer survivors.
“[Maravilla] directly connects the traumatic experience of being an undocumented child migrating to the U.S. as one of the stressors that may have precipitated cancer,” Lash relays. “Wellness, we acknowledge, is tied to decreasing stress, feeling belonging in a community, creating space for quiet and meditation, and connecting with others...so there’s this idea that if you invite people in from marginalized communities and create a space of welcome, it potentially has larger [consequences].”
Such big-picture thinking is echoed in Clarissa Tossin
’s exhibition, which boldly confronts the human relationship to planets beyond Earth. Researching and working closely with a variety of scientists, Tossin specifically addresses human exploitation of resources on our own planet, and the implications of continuing these practices as we explore the moon and eventually Mars. “A lot of her work connects the histories of Earth to what we’re looking for in space,” says Lash. “It’s been great working with an artist who cares deeply about the ramifications of our actions on the environment.”
Clarissa Tossin's "The 8th Continent" (detail), 2021. Digital loom jacquard tapestries with metallic thread.
Included in Tossin’s exhibition is "Death by Heat Wave," a 62-foot silicone cast of a sycamore tree from her backyard in Los Angeles that died as the result of heat and drought — a monumental representation of just how close to home the effects of climate change are becoming. Another compelling piece in Tossin’s show is a full cast of an astronaut’s space suit, which carries a similar concept. “To me, it’s such a fascinating metaphor that she explores,” says Lash, “Where in space, the spacesuit is this fragile barrier between the human and the environment; our ozone [is also] this incredibly fragile barrier between us and outer space.
“I think it’s easy when you face issues as enormous as these to feel a little bit helpless, but that’s certainly not the case,” Lash reflects. “There’s always something to do. And even though the issues that these artists confront are difficult — the desperate need for support for people seeking migration, climate change, our care for other species — they all basically come back with a call to awareness, and this call for engagement.
"We’ve gone through such a period of isolation and fragmentation, and I feel like the theme between these three artists is, how do we come back together? Or how do we find a path together?”
Tania Candiani: For the Animals; Guadalupe Maravilla: Purring Monsters With Mirrors on Their Backs; and Clarissa Tossin: Falling From Earth; Museum of Contemporary Art, 1485 Delgany Street,Friday, June 3, through August 28. Find more information at MCADenver.org.