MOCA opens new exhibit on death and life

Maria Fazal, Staff Reporter

Despite its relatively small size, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland is not to be overlooked. In fact, the museum has already arranged its impressive upcoming Spring/Winter 2014 exhibitions: “DIRGE: Reflections on [Life +] Death” and “Sara VanDerBeek.”

The first of these, “DIRGE,” focuses on the concept of mortality and the teetering, wispy bridge between life and death. The word “dirge” can be defined as a funeral song used to express mourning.

However, the main focus of the exhibition is not death; rather, it is the emphasis on the delicate nature of life to accentuate its true momentousness. It is only when viewers shift their attention from mankind’s greatest preoccupation, death, that they can truly conceive the exhibition’s essence.

Curator and Director of Programs and Associate Curator for MOCA Cleveland Megan Lykins Reich explains, “Death is life’s greatest certainty. This relevant and enduring subject matter finds new voice in ‘DIRGE’, which features the thoughtful, powerful, distinctive expressions of contemporary artists who find meaning in mortality.”

The organization of the show is, in a way, very similar to a snowball effect. The exhibition begins on a personal level, with a focus on individual artists’ views on their own mortality which progressively broadens to include artists’ musings on the deaths of those close to them.

The show then develops further to encompass the effects of memory, culture and religion on artists’ perceptions of life and the afterlife. According to MOCA Cleveland, “‘DIRGE’ creates a space in which visitors might better understand life by reflecting on its end.”

The second solo exhibition, “Sara VanDerBeek,” will focus on said artist’s interpretations of Cleveland’s cityscape. Recently, VanDerBeek created similar urban landscape works on Detroit and Baltimore, cities that apparently hold special meaning to VanDerBeek, be it personally, politically or historically.

VanDerBeek’s exhibition focuses on Cleveland’s landscape and cultural moments. Her preferred mediums seem to be sculpture and photography, and she has visited the city multiple times in the past year to obtain a feel for its dynamic nature.

MOCA Cleveland expresses that VanDerBeek’s work is known for its “sense of suspension and a dreamlike quality, evoking fragments of memory and fleeting impressions of the city.” It will certainly be interesting to see an outsider perspective on Cleveland.

VanDerBeek, who is a breakout in the contemporary art world, will definitely not disappoint with her upcoming solo exhibition. Her track record speaks for itself.

VanDerBeek has had works shown in multiple group exhibitions, had her first solo exhibition, “To Think of Time,” (2011) at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and was the first contemporary artist exhibited by the new Fondazione Memmo–Arte Contemporanea.

Exhibition curator David Norr sums things up nicely stating, “Sara VanDerBeek’s exhibition will create an immersive and contemplative experience for viewers. Her photographs and sculptures have a sense of suspension and a dreamlike quality, evoking fragments of memory and fleeting impressions of the city.”

Both exhibitions will open on March 7 at 7 p.m. in a Friday night opening party. The party kicks off with an artist and curator talk and shortly after features a live performance by the Revolution Brass Band at 8 p.m. Additionally, there is a Family Art Studio from 7-9 p.m., with activities targeted toward children 10 and under. This involves creating hands-on art influenced by VanDerBeek’s work.

Exhibition opening night is free and open to all. Normal admission into MOCA is free for members and children under six years of age. General admission is $8, seniors (65+) get in for $6, and students with valid ID pay $5. The exhibitions will be on display until June 8.