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Exhibition

and I will wear you in my heart of heart

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Key takeaways

1. A group exhibition of contemporary paintings and textiles; Centering on a gesture of care, the exhibition explores the myriad ways in which 35 artists evoke tenderness through depictions of lovers and friends, familial exchanges, moments of solitude, and even a cowboy and his pastel pink unicorn

2. The exhibition includes recent and new works created for the exhibition that embody the cross-generational resurgence in figuration as a mode of exploring identity, cultural histories, and personal experience

The FLAG Art Foundation presents and I will wear you in my heart of heart, a group exhibition of contemporary paintings and textiles. Centering on a gesture of care, the exhibition explores the myriad ways in which 35 artists evoke tenderness through depictions of lovers and friends, familial exchanges, moments of solitude, and even a cowboy and his pastel pink unicorn. Heart of heart includes recent and new works created for the exhibition that embody the cross-generational resurgence in figuration as a mode of exploring identity, cultural histories, and personal experience.

Heart of heart nods to a line from (and spoken by) Hamlet[1] and addresses that which we hold closest, be it a relationship, a feeling, one’s own well-being, an object, or a dream. Illustratively, the “heart of heart” is akin to a castle’s keep, an innermost stronghold and safeguard from the outside world. Reggie Burrows Hodges and Jordan Casteel depict large-scale scenes of shared intimacy between parents and children. TM Davy and Jenna Gribbon position viewers as voyeurs, granted fleeting access to an affectionate gesture between friends and/or lovers. Reflective moments are found in paintings by Peter Doig (a lone figure stands outside the wall of Lapeyrouse Cemetery in Port of Spain, Trinidad), Danielle McKinney (a woman sits in prayer sits under a crucifix and portrait of the Virgin Mary), and Ernst Yohji Jaeger (a spider web is suspended—or being spun—between the fingers of a young man). Joan Semmel’s frank depiction of her aging body and Jay Lynn Gomez’s painting of a polaroid picture of her younger self speak to vulnerability and transformation. Made of materials that typically dress and wrap the body, textiles by Cheryl Pope (needle punched wool roving on cashmere), Alessandro Teoldi (reconstituted airline blankets), and Billie Zangewa (hand-stitched and collaged silk) connote touch, comfort, and connectivity—intrinsic elements of tenderness.

With the understanding that the concept of tenderness is both elastic and individual, the exhibition opens with three artworks: Tajh Rust’s If I had a dream, 2021; Anthony Cudahy’s Us (with Jacob’s Ladder, Apocalypse Tree, Lion), 2020; and Lisa Yuskavage’s Mutualism, 2006. Rust’s jewel-toned canvas centers on two sleeping figures: a woman on an emerald couch and a man on a sapphire carpet studded with butterflies. While the figures’ relationship is opaque—are the lovers, siblings, or just friends—their hands, which almost touch, create an unmistakable intimacy. Cudahy paints himself and his husband Ian in a life-size towering embrace; connected through a spiral of each other’s hands, the couple is woven into a patchwork of symbols and imagery borrowed from the medieval Bayeux and Apocalypse Tapestries, as well as references to Helen Frankenthaler’s explosive Jacob’s Ladder, 1957[2]. By contrast, Yuskavage’s small-scale oil painting features two nymph-like female figures piggybacking in a Candyland-like landscape—both are naked but for a single black Mary Jane shoe. Yuskavage’s intertwined characters are sexual and sexualized, playful, and possibly parasitic. Partially obscured by branches and greenery, the intentions on their flushed-faces are impossible to discern.

Continuing through two adjoining galleries, over 30 artworks of varied subject matters and formal affinities are installed to spark dialogues that are, by turns, funny, heartbreaking, erotic, nostalgic, empathetic, etc. Cumulatively, the works in heart of heart illustrate the simple beauty of everyday moments, intimacy, and connection.

[1] “[…]Give me that man / That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him / In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart, / As I do thee.” (Hamlet 3.2.65-67); Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. George Richard Hibbard. Oxford University Press, 2008. Google Books.
[2] The title of this work refers to the biblical character Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah. As described in the Book of Genesis, Jacob had a dream in which he saw a ladder reaching toward heaven. Speaking about this work, Frankenthaler said, “The picture developed (bit by bit while I was working on it) into shapes symbolic of an exuberant figure and ladder, therefore Jacob’s Ladder.”