In her tome SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, scholar and classicist Mary Beard mused, “In some ways, to explore ancient Rome from the twenty-first century is rather like walking on a tightrope, a very careful balancing act. If you look down one side, everything seems reassuringly familiar…. On the other side, it seems completely alien territory.” The same might be said of these strange days of 2021, a period that simultaneously strives towards a “normal” we understand while remaining perpetually alien, obfuscated by a mutating pandemic, a global climate crisis, and political, economic, and philosophical upheaval of every stripe. And like ancient Rome, this epic moment has global reach and cultural significance. It is already history, even as we live through it.
MMXXI is a marking of time, with all its gravity and consequence. The year 2021 marks a new understanding of reality as a push-and-pull between the ordinary and the uncertain. The works in this exhibition reflect this mood: they are meditative and manic, familiar and uncanny, minimal and maximal. Some model the colliding of human and animal systems, or strange, open-ended subjectivities. Others reveal bold formal moves in color, motion, composition, or the properties of paint, light, and perception. These works picture the cautious optimism of looking forward and the weight of where we’ve been, the here and now balanced with what lies on the other side.
— Catherine Taft, exhibition curator
Los Angeles, August 2021
Photo Credit: David Daigle
Video Credit: Taylor Griffith