DIRGE: Reflections on [Life and] Death

Cecily Brennan, Sophie Calle, Jim Campbell, Vija Celmins, TR Ericsson, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Spring Hurlbut, Rosemary Laing, Steve Lambert, Kesang Lamdark, Teresa Margolles, Kris Martin, Matt Mullican, Oscar Muñoz, Takashi Murakami, Mike Nelson, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Pedro Reyes, Dario Robleto, Guido van der Werve, Hannah Wilke, David Wojnarowicz

Organized by Megan Lykins Reich, Director of Programs and Associate Curator

March 7, 2014June 8, 2014
DIRGE: Reflections on [Life and] Death explores how contemporary artists use their individual practices to capture, react to, reflect on, and make sense of mortality. The exhibition features painting, sculpture, video, installation, drawing, and mixed media artworks by artists both living and deceased. Works range from reflections on one’s imminent death to expressions of grief, memory, and transcendence. Rather than a study of the forces that cause death, the exhibition investigates mortality to identify and reinforce the most powerful characteristics of life. 
DIRGE refers to a funeral song expressing mourning. Similarly, the artworks presented in the exhibition envision a spectrum of reaction that mortality can cause, ranging from its existential certainty to its emotional, spiritual, and philosophical influence. The exhibition begins with highly personal exercises by artists facing their own mortality and moves outward to artistic reflections on the deaths of those closest. DIRGE also examines how concepts of time, memory, culture, and religion influence artists’ understandings of life and afterlife. Works like Guido van der Werve’s  Nummer veertien, home (2012)—a 54-minute dramatic video for which the artist composed a full requiem—invoke personal and collective as well as historic and contemporary revalations. Other works in the exhibition explore the social practices and cultural implications of mortality. Attempting to capture the broad range of artistic reflections on mortality, DIRGE creates a space in which visitors might better understand life by reflecting on its end.  
DIRGE is funded by The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation with support from Lauren Rich Fine and Gary Giller.
All 2014 Exhibitions are funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Leadership Gifts from Britton Fund, Margaret Fulton Mueller, Agnes Gund, Scott Mueller, Joanne Cohen and Morris Wheeler, Margaret Cohen and Kevin Rahilly, Doreen and Dick Cahoon, Becky Dunn, Harriet and Victor Goldberg, Donna and Stewart Kohl, and Toby Devan Lewis.
With community support from Cleveland Clinic; Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University; Hospice of the Western Reserve; and InterContinental Cleveland