The history of art has a rich tradition of multi-part compositions. Renaissance altarpieces and narrative cycles composed of a number of separate but related elements, for example, come to mind. Today, contemporary artists working in a variety of materials, styles, and formats are extending the tradition in radically new directions.
This installation presents painting, sculpture, and video by 19 artists. Some of these artworks eliminate any obvious representational content, although several are based on historical events or refer to particular phenomena. A number of recent acquisitions are being exhibited at the Museum for the first time, including a group of works that have been purchased through The Richard Brown Baker Fund for Contemporary British Art, established in 2003. Earlier pieces date back to the 1960s, among them several important examples from the Museum’s Nancy Sayles Day Collection of Modern Latin American Art.
The selection of sculpture is especially broad, ranging from works that feature sewn textiles, glass plates, wood furniture, or ceramics to others made with painted steel or elastic cord. Some consist of a pair of objects, whereas others are composed of many more parts. In some cases, the elements are joined together and shown in a particular configuration, in contrast to those where individual partsare rearranged, displayed separately, or located at a distance from each other. Sequence, juxtaposition, andrepetition are key underlying principles. Despite dissimilarities of form and content, all the works gain richness because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.