September 6, 2019

how the light gets in

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University

Jorge Méndez Blake, Amerika (detail), 2019. Bricks and edition of Amerika by Franz Kafka, 68.25 x 357 x 11.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Galería OMR, Mexico City. Photo: Simon Wheeler, Cornell University.

In 2016, the Pew Research Center reported “nearly 1 in 100 people worldwide are now displaced from their homes.” how the light gets in is an exhibition about the movement of people across the globe and the welcome cracks that develop in our notions of borders and nation states—“that’s how the light gets in,” Leonard Cohen sang in his 1992 song “Anthem”: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

The exhibition was curated by Andrea Inselmann, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Johnson. It brings together an international group of 58 artists and artist teams and collectives, ranging in age from their twenties to their nineties and representing 29 countries of birth and residence. Their work, which includes drawing, photography, painting, sculpture, and video, engages with themes of migration, immigration, displacement, and exile.

how the light gets in presents mainly post–9/11 artworks that address conditions of mobility, vulnerability, and the yearning for home. The featured works aim to restore the dignity of people who migrate, putting parallel spotlights on the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe and the human consequences of US immigration policy, especially along its southern border. Rather than focus on documentary photography, as images of refugees in boats and at border fences continue to inundate the news media, works that prompt identification with migrants and refugees encourage visitors to participate in a narrative of empathy, which, writer Rebecca Solnit has noted, “we tell ourselves to make other people real to us, to feel for and with them, and thereby to extend and enlarge and open ourselves.”

“This exhibition and its accompanying programs, while impossible to be comprehensive, are about hope at a time in which migration has become one of the most pressing issues for humanity,” said curator Andrea Inselmann. “Artists can make the heavily mediated mass-migration crisis more tangible, representing often difficult and controversial ideas, and playing a critical role in helping people understand the complicated politics and emotions of the im/migrant experience.”

The artists represented are Saâdane Afif, Sobia Ahmad, Shiva Ahmadi, John Akomfrah, Sama Alshaibi, Mounira Al Solh, Kader Attia, Aziz + Cucher, Radcliffe Bailey, Rina Banerjee, Keren Benbenisty, Dawoud Bey, Jorge Méndez Blake, Phoebe Boswell, Andrea Bowers, Tania Bruguera, Margarita Cabrera, Yoan Capote, Enrique Chagoya, Gohar Dashti, Lois Dodd, Willie Doherty, Fidencio Fifield-Perez, Forensic Oceanography, Meschac Gaba, Cyprien Gaillard, Guillermo Galindo, John Gerrard, Mohamad Hafez, Manaf Halbouni, Mona Hatoum, Alfredo Jaar, Hayv Kahraman, Zoe Leonard, Glenn Ligon, Hew Locke, Teresa Margolles, Elisabeth Masé, Esperanza Mayobre, Richard Misrach, Fiamma Montezemolo, Richard Mosse, Yoshua Okón, Catherine Opie, Lucy + Jorge Orta, Driss Ouadahi, Peng! Collective, Dawit L. Petros, Postcommodity, Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, Jolene K. Rickard with Steve Henhawk and Waylon Wilson, Yinka Shonibare, Aram Han Sifuentes, Shahzia Sikander, Tavares Strachan, Stephanie Syjuco, Voces de la Frontera, and Ai Weiwei.

how the light gets in was funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Engaged Cornell, and the Cornell Council for the Arts, and supported by generous gifts from Younghee Kim-Wait, Ronni Lacroute ’66, and Jodi Dady and Andrew Dady ’86. Additional support was provided by the Ames Exhibition Endowment.

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University has a permanent collection of more than 35,000 works of art from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. The museum building was designed by I. M. Pei and opened in 1973, funded by Cornell alumnus Herbert F. Johnson, late president and chairman of S C Johnson.

Thank you!

An email with a confirmation link has been sent to the email address you entered. To complete your subscription, click this link.