A Poet*hical Wager

Organized by Senior Curator Andria Hickey

October 7, 2017January 28, 2018

Read A Poet*hical Wager Gallery Guide

Timed with the fifth anniversary of MOCA Cleveland’s Farshid Moussavi-designed building, A Poet*hical Wager explores the ethical dimension of works that use abstraction, minimalism, and assemblage to approach complex ideas that cannot be addressed through representation. Emblematic of an increasing global dependence on abstract transactions that occur largely outside of our vision and comprehension, the works in the exhibition manifest the complexity of modern life in both form and process. The title of this exhibition references the book The Poethical Wager by American poet and scholar, Joan Retallack, which is in part about forms that break patterns.

Through the lens of international artists working in a wide variety of media—sculpture, assemblage, film, installation, and painting—the exhibition probes how subjects born of changes in our international social, political, and economic contexts inhabit unexpected artistic forms. Rather than create works that function as direct accounts of a specific event or situation, the artists in the exhibition use form to weave a complex narrative using a constellation of source materials. In this way, viewers encounter a poetic interpretation of a specific subject that may more closely approximate its felt experience.

Curator Andria Hickey states, “The exhibition is developed through conversations with artists and seems especially timely given the increasingly complex relationship we have with world events that are both affecting and divorced from personal experience. Looking at abstraction as a form of response suggests a different way of working, and a different way of thinking about the affective power of art today.”

Artists include Doug Ashford (b. 1958, Rabat, MA); Abbas Akhavan (b. 1977, Tehran, IR); Abraham Cruzvillegas (b. 1968, Mexico City, MX); Lara Favaretto (b. 1973, Treviso, Italy); Iman Issa (b. 1979, Cairo, EG); Rashid Johnson (b. 1977, Chicago, Illinois); Jumana Manna (b. 1987, Princeton, NJ); Oscar Murillo (b.1986, Valle del Cauca, Colombia), Tariku Shiferaw (b.1983, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia); and Mario GarcÍa Torres (b. 1975, Monclova, Mexico), Emanuel Tovar (b. 1974, Guadalajara, Mexico).


Major support for A Poet*hical Wager is provided by Scott Mueller, with additional support from BakerHostetler and kurimanzutto, Mexico City. Community support provided by InterContinental Hotel Cleveland

All current exhibitions are funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Leadership Circle gifts from anonymous donors, Yuval Brisker, Joanne Cohen and Morris Wheeler, Margaret Cohen and Kevin Rahilly, Becky Dunn, Harriet Goldberg, Agnes Gund, Richard and Michelle Jeschelnig, Donna and Stewart Kohl, Jan Lewis, Toby Devan Lewis, and Scott Mueller.

All MOCA Cleveland exhibitions are supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and the continuing support of the Museum’s Board of Directors, patrons, and members.