The London-based artist Mona Hatoum (b. 1952) creates work that addresses the growing unease of an ever-expanding world, one that is as technologically networked as it is politically fractured by war and exile. Investigating place and the body through a minimalist language of form and a wide range of materials, from glass and steel to light and sand, her sculptures and installations since the late-1980s are grounded in questions about how shifting geography and the limits of institutional structures can redefine our understanding of the world around us.
Organized by Menil
Senior Curator Michelle White, Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma is the internationally-acclaimed artists first major solo exhibition in the United States in more than twenty years. The exhibition presents approximately 30 major sculptures and installations from North American and European collections. The show also includes a number of smaller sculptures and works on paper. Highlights include work imbued with a sense of physical danger that challenge the idea of home as a place of rest and comfort. Homebound (1999) is a room-size assemblage of electrified household objects and furniture. Other works depart from the Surrealist notion of the uncanny. La grande broyeuse (Mouli-Julienne x 17) (1999) is a monumentally-scaled vegetable processor. Hatoum transforms the familiar object into a strange and menacing creature through a preposterous alteration of scale. The artist wants her work to create a situation where reality itself becomes a questionable point, where [viewers] have to reassess their assumptions and their relationship to things around them. Said Senior Curator Michelle White, In 2012, when Mona Hatoum and I began developing this project, we could never have anticipated the current political climate, which is dominated by conversations about walls, borders, refugees, and travel bans. Here, in this strange place, one that has so long defined the experiences of peoples of diaspora, refugees, and displaced populations, Hatoums work is situated and finds such urgency. Her cultivation of instability paradoxically provides a tool to find meaning and a sense of home on such a volatile earth.
Working closely with Hatoum, the Menil Collection presents a selection of her artwork in the museums special exhibition galleries. Additional installations by the artist are being displayed in the Menil's celebrated Surrealism and African galleries. Hatoum has long been interested in the power of unexpected encounters and material juxtapositions. Over the course of her more than forty-year career she has repeatedly used Surrealism as a point of departure. In a time of global migration, displacement and political uncertainty, this provocative connection is particularly relevant.
Said Menil Director Rebecca Rabinow, The Menil Collections strong holdings of Surrealist art have provided a compelling backdrop for the artists investigation of the strange and shocking transformations of the ordinary. We are pleased that Hatoum has been inspired to work closely with our collection of early 20th century art. She has placed artworks by René Magritte, Meret Oppenheim, and Marcel Duchamp in conversation with her own pieces, demonstrating the great legacy and resonant strength that the avant-garde language has in contemporary practice, as well as the artists astute play with its history.
Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma is accompanied by a copiously illustrated, scholarly catalogue with critical and art historical essays by Michelle White and Anna C. Chave and imaginative texts by Rebecca Solnit and Adania Shibli, which contextualize the artists work and its relationship to Surrealism, Minimalism, feminism, politics, and postcolonialism. Illustrations include photographs of Hatoums work installed in the Menils celebrated Renzo Piano-designed main museum building. The book will be released in January 2018.
The Menil Collection has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and has been recommended to receive a $50,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to help support both the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue. The Andy Warhol Foundations grant activity is focused on serving the needs of artists by funding the institutions that support them. NEA Art Works grants are awarded for the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and strengthening of communities through the arts.
Following the Menils presentation of Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma, the show will travel to the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, where it will be on view beginning April 6, 2018. In anticipation of the exhibition, Hatoum was the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University in the spring of 2017.
Born to a Palestinian family in Beirut, Mona Hatoum studied at the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Slade School of Art in London where she settled following the 1975 Civil War in Lebanon. She has had major exhibitions at the Center Georges Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; among other institutions. Hatoum was nominated for the 1995 Turner Prize and was included in important group exhibitions such as Documenta (2002 and 2017) and the Venice Biennale (1995 and 2005). In 2011, Hatoum was awarded the Joan Miró Prize by Fundació Joan Miró, and in 2017, she was awarded the 10th Hiroshima Art Prize.