Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century opens at the Frist Art Museum

Kazuki Umezawa (b. 1985, Saitama, Japan; based in Japan). Over the Sky of the Beyond, 2014. Digital print, acrylic, and glitter paste on wood panel, 39 3/8 x 48 7/8 in. Pizzuti Collection. © Kazuki Umezawa

The Frist Art Museum presents Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century, a sweeping survey of paintings from around the world that invite contemplation of seemingly ungraspable forces shaping contemporary society, from the ideological to the technological. Organized by Frist Art Museum chief curator Mark Scala, the exhibition will be on view in the museum’s Ingram Gallery from June 22 through September 16, 2018.

Artists in the exhibition, including Franz Ackermann, Ellen Gallagher, Matthew Ritchie, Wangechi Mutu, and 34 others, convey the destabilizing effects of phenomena such as globalism, mass migration, the resurgence of radical political agendas, and the rapidly expanding impact of communications and information technology. These powerful forces are dramatically altering social relations in unpredictable ways, provoking emotions from anxiety to excitement about life in the present and future. Affirming painting’s unfailing relevance as an art form in the digital era, Chaos and Awe celebrates the visual freshness, complexity, and associative richness of this age-old medium.

“Taking advantage of paint’s chameleon like properties, these works have a nuanced and alluring physical presence that is less attainable in virtual mediums,” says Scala. Scala’s critically acclaimed 2009 exhibition Paint Made Flesh also examined how paint is an inherently effective medium for expressing the transitory nature of the human condition. “Even the physical nature of paint itself, scooped from a can or squeezed from a tube, has metaphorical resonance—its formlessness is well suited to depicting amorphous conditions that are the central themes of this show.”

The profound nature of the subject matter, paired with the masterly technique on display in the works, may overwhelm, disturb, or thrill the viewer—reactions that affirm the enduring ability of painting to communicate nascent and often unnamable ideas, emotions, and sensations. Scala hopes that the paintings will help shape viewers’ own perceptions of the forces swirling around them.

“How we respond to the precarity of the world is the central question today, as it has been in other pivotal moments in history.” The following artists are represented in Chaos and Awe: Franz Ackermann, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Radcliffe Bailey, Ali Banisadr, Pedro Barbeito, Jeremy Blake, Matti Braun, Dean Byington, Hamlett Dobbins, Nogah Engler, Anoka Faruqee, Barnaby Furnas, Ellen Gallagher, Wayne Gonzales, Wade Guyton, Rokni Haerizadeh, Peter Halley, Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Rashid Johnson, Guillermo Kuitca, Heather Gwen Martin, Julie Mehretu, Jiha Moon, Wangechi Mutu, James Perrin, Neo Rauch, Matthew Ritchie,,Rachel Rossin, Pat Steir, Barbara Takenaga, Dannielle Tegeder, Kazuki Umezawa, Charline von Heyl, Sarah Walker,,Corinne Wasmuht, and Sue Williams.

The Frist Art Museum has produced an exhibition catalogue, Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century, published by The MIT Press with seventy-six full-color illustrations. It provides various perspectives on painting as a medium that is well suited to describing perceptions of growing instability, contradictory information, and warring extremisms, as well as celebrating the sublime and how artists represent connections in the unseen universe. Edited by Mark W. Scala, with essays by Media Farzin, Simon Morley, and Matthew Ritchie, the book addresses readers who seek patterns of meaning in culture through the lens of perception and aesthetics.

Mark your calendars for these Public Programs. Friday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. a Curator’s Perspective: From No Place to Everything, presented by Mark Scala, chief curator in the Frist Auditorium, Free; in this lecture, chief curator Mark Scala will discuss how artists in Chaos and Awe respond to cultural shifts that are so sweeping and unpredictable that they lead to feelings ranging from helplessness, anxiety, and even terror to excitement at the possibilities of boundless knowledge and new levels of connectivity.

Thursday, July 12 at Noon, a Curator’s Tour: Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century, presented by Mark Scala, chief curator. Join chief curator Mark Scala for an in-depth look at this international survey of contemporary painting. Artists in Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century convey the destabilizing effects of phenomena such as globalism, mass migration, the resurgence of radical political agendas, and the rapidly expanding impact of communications and information technology through art. These powerful forces are dramatically altering social relations in unpredictable ways, provoking emotions from anxiety to excitement about life in the present and future. Frist Art Museum members can attend a Members-Only Curator’s Tour on Friday, July 13 at noon.

Friday, July 27 from 6:00–9:00 p.m. Frist Friday: An Evening of Chaos and Awe; General adult admission: $12. Experience the exhibitions of the Frist Art Museum in new and unexpected ways at Frist Fridays. Join us for an evening of extraordinary music and art, with live performances, interactive gallery activities, food and drink specials, and more, featuring Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century and The Presence of Your Absence Is Everywhere: Afruz Amighi.

Saturday, September 8 from 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. a Symposium: Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century in the Auditorium. $30 members; $40 not-yet-members; $20 students and university faculty. Registration includes admission to the galleries and a boxed lunch. The Frist Art Museum will hold a public symposium to coincide with the major exhibition Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century. The all-day event will feature exhibition artists and catalogue contributors, including Ghada Amer, Ali Banisadr, Media Farzin, and Matthew Ritchie, who will discuss their work and the larger themes of the exhibition. Register at FristArtMuseum.org/symposium.

Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Art Museum’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Art Museum exhibitions. Information on accessibility can be found at FristArtMuseum.org/accessibility.

Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and for members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounts with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, café, and gift shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the café opening at noon. For additional information, call 615.244.3340 or visit FristArtMuseum.org.