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MCA Chicago Presents Joseph Grigely: St. Cecilia Exhibition
Joseph Grigely, Remembering is a difficult job, but somebody has to do it, 2005. Courtesy of the artist and Cohan and Leslie, New York.

CHICAGO.- The failures, idiosyncrasies, and ruptures of language and everyday communication are explored in Joseph Grigely’s survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago. Grigely, who currently lives and works in Chicago, became deaf at the age of ten because of a childhood accident. Grigely’s recent series explores sound – from his own memories of sound as a child, to explorations of how sound “looks.” Joseph Grigely: St Cecilia includes videos, sculptures, a sound installation, and works on paper, and is on view November 22, 2008 – February 22, 2009.

The exhibition is centered on Grigely’s most recent project, St. Cecilia, a major video installation that explores the nuances between seeing and hearing, and how one might experience music with the sound turned off. Named after the patron saint of music, St. Cecilia features two single-channel video projections with footage of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society singing three traditional Christmas carols with new lyrics written by Grigely to convey what he calls “lipmisreading” – identical lip movements that produce dissimilar sounds.

The choir members appear as if they are singing the same words, but in fact, the words sung on each screen are very different. The overhead directional speakers playing the two song lyrics are separated in the gallery so the viewer may experience the multiple distinctive aural sounds – one with the sound of familiar lyrics, and the other with Grigely’s own lyrics.

Additional works include Remembering is a difficult job, but somebody has to do it, an installation with artificial palm trees, a projected image of water, and a monitor on which the artist is interviewed about music he remembers before his loss of hearing in 1967. Grigely sings the lyrics to the Gilligan's Island television show theme song as well as a Schlitz beer commercial song, and other commercials. You, created with his wife and artist Amy Vogel, records people mispronouncing the name of the contemporary artist, Ed Ruscha, when they were asked to read it aloud. Grigely also collaborated with Vogel in the video Something Say, where she seems to wait for someone or something and no language is used other than her facial expressions and her body movements that are repeated with multiple variations. We’re bantering drunkening about what’s important in life, presents a grid of notes on small pieces of paper and post-it notes taken from everyday conversations that Grigely has collected since the 1970s. The installation exemplifies a body of work called Conversation with the Hearing for which Grigely is best known. The huge archive is arranged by color groupings, making reference to the tradition of geometric abstract painters such as Josef Albers, while creating new and unexpected meanings through the deliberate assembly of stories, phrases, and words.

Joseph Grigely gives a public talk in the MCA Theater on Tuesday, December 2, 2008. He plans to discuss historical issues related to representing conversation and conversational exchange and share slides and a short video. The talk is $10, and space is limited. Up to two tickets may be reserved in advance. Tickets are available at the MCA Box Office or by calling 312.397.4010. There is a $3 nonrefundable handling fee for phone and online orders.

The MCA’s Pamela Alper Associate Curator, Julie Rodrigues Widholm, leads a free tour of the exhibition on Tuesday, December 9, 2008, at noon.

St. Cecilia was co-organized by the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, and The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs. Joseph Grigely’s new video installation, St. Cecilia, is co-produced by the the Orange County Museum of Art and the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore. The MCA presentation is organized by Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Pamela Alper Associate Curator.

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