Lincoln, MA - deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is pleased to announce three new exhibitions, on view April 10 – September 12, 2021. Large-scale, immersive works by the textile artist Sonya Clark will be on view in Sonya Clark: Heavenly Bound, which Clark developed specially for deCordova, and Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know, organized by The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. Concurrent with both Sonya Clark presentations, the collection-based exhibition, What We Do in the Shadows, examines the dynamics of visibility and marginalization in political activism.
Sonya Clark draws on everyday materials to investigate how our assignment of meaning to objects reflects our personal and collective attitudes. For decades, Clark has sustained her line of inquiry into the Black experience in the United States, often using cultural symbols to grapple with the relationships between history, social justice, institutional racism, and racial inequality. deCordova’s Curatorial Fellow Sam Adams notes, “Clark’s works make space for conversations around Black histories and renew hope in the promises of liberation. Amid the toppling of Confederate monuments across the country and debates around the Confederate Battle flag, we must appreciate that Clark’s work is not only timely in this moment, but that its timeliness stretches back at least four centuries—encompassing many generations who have fought tyranny to ensure liberty and justice for all.”
Sonya Clark: Heavenly Bound
The debut of Clark’s most recent work dealing with the Underground Railroad, Sonya Clark: Heavenly Bound, honors the perilous journey of self-emancipated Black Americans who navigated by way of the Big Dipper, North Star, and improvised maps. Showcasing Clark’s versatility in fiber-based media, the exhibition includes a night sky made of the artist’s hair, a cloth book with cyanotypes of constellations, and a parachute referencing the extraordinary paths to liberation forged by enslaved people. These works are accompanied by monumentally scaled photographs of those who led the process of abolition, such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. Adams adds, “Like the exhibition’s title, adapted from the spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot, the stunning works that Clark made for this exhibition insist on the real and symbolic relevance of the Underground Railroad as a space of self-realization for those who have sought freedom across the ages.”
Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know
Organized by The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia following Clark’s residency there, Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know has been reformatted in collaboration with the artist for deCordova’s galleries to examine more closely New England’s implication in enslavement and abolition as well as ongoing systemic racism. Through large-scale textile pieces, interactive experiences, and performance, this exhibition proposes a shift in the national discussion around race and remembrance. The Confederate Flag of Truce was a simple dishcloth employed as the South’s flag of surrender at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Yet, as Clark shows, propaganda continues to make the more familiar Confederate Battle Flag into the enduring symbol of this history. The exhibition asks: what was surrendered and who had the privilege of surrendering? Did the truce hold? Clark’s works explore the color, texture, and ideology of the Truce Flag, offering avenues for reevaluating foundational American narratives of truce and surrender.
What We Do in the Shadows
The concurrent collection-based group exhibition, What We Do in the Shadows, draws from deCordova’s holdings in photography and works on paper. The artworks expose injustices against individuals, communities, and the environment, centering advocates and activists who fight for equality and find empowerment amid darkness. “Shadows lurk all around us, marking time and place”, notes Curatorial Assistant Elizabeth Upenieks. Literally and figuratively, shade provides space for people to flourish in secret and cover for malicious activities. Highlighting deCordova’s holdings of art associated with postwar countercultures in the United States, this exhibition looks across the Museum’s legacy of collecting works that push against entrenched social norms, uplift disempowered people, and disseminate messages of peace and equity. What We Do in the Shadows is organized by Elizabeth Upenieks, Curatorial Assistant.
Sonya Clark Public Programs and Education
The interpretive strategies for Monumental Cloth and Heavenly Bound include a reading area with dozens of recently published books on enslavement and abolition in Massachusetts; staff anti-racism workshops; and weekly weaving tutorials for visitors. A robust slate of free, virtual public programming will include presentations on Civil War history and memory by Dr. Hilary N. Green; a conversation between Dr. Deborah Willis and Dr. Barbara Krauthamer on the role of photography in promoting emancipation; and a multipart series on Black feminisms guest curated by artist and organizer Cierra Michele Peters. An interactive learning space in the museum will feature opportunities for young visitors to explore these themes, as will hands-on art making workshops on topics such as monuments, weaving, and West African textiles. Further programming may be announced.
Sonya Clark Biography
The 2020 recipient of deCordova’s annual Rappaport Prize, Sonya Clark (b. 1967, Washington, D.C.) is a textile artist and Professor of Art and the History of Art at Amherst College. Clark has exhibited at over 350 museums and galleries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas, and her work is included in such museum collections as the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She was previously chair of the Craft and Material Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University from 2006 to 2017, and prior to that, the Baldwin-Bascom Professorship of Creative Arts at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. She holds a BA and honorary doctorate from Amherst College, a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Amherst College, Agnes Gund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Goya Contemporary Gallery & Goya-Girl Press, Rotasa Fund, the John Meyerhoff & Lenel Srochi-Meyerhoff Fund at the Baltimore Community Foundation, and Judith S. Weisman. Additional support for deCordova’s presentations of Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, The Flag We Should Know and Sonya Clark: Heavenly Bound comes from the Coby Foundation, Ltd., the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, the Nathaniel Saltonstall Arts Fund, and the Roy A. Hunt Foundation. Both exhibitions at deCordova are aligned with the Feminist Art Coalition and have been organized by Sam Adams, Curatorial Fellow.
About deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Established in 1950 and located just twenty miles west of Boston, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is dedicated to fostering the creation and exploration of contemporary sculpture and art through a dynamic state of rotating exhibitions, innovative learning opportunities, a constantly changing thirty-acre landscape of large scale, outdoor, modern, and contemporary sculptures, and site-specific installations. DeCordova joined The Trustees in July of 2019. To learn more, visit thetrustees.org/decordova.
About The Trustees
Founded in the city of Boston by landscape architect and open spaces visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, the Trustees is the nation’s first and Commonwealth’s largest preservation and conservation non-profit. For more than 125 years, we have worked to preserve and protect dynamic natural and cultural sites from beaches and community gardens to farms, historic homesteads, designed landscapes, and hiking trails – for public use and enjoyment. Today we are working to engage a larger constituency of Massachusetts residents, members, visitors, and public and private partners in our work to help protect our beloved and fragile natural, ecological, cultural, and coastal sites for current and future generations. To learn more, visit thetrustees.org.
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About Trustees | deCordova
Established in 1950 and located just twenty miles west of Boston, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is dedicated to fostering the creation and exploration of contemporary sculpture and art through a dynamic slate of rotation exhibitions, innovative learning opportunities, a constantly changing thirty-acre landscape of large-scale, outdoor, modern, and contemporary sculpture, and site-specific installations. DeCordova joined The Trustees in July of 2019. To learn more, visit www.decordova.org