Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11 is a new exhibition which opens September 12, at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, one day after the 9/11 anniversary. The exhibit features the work of 13 local artists and includes paintings, video, and sculptures. Each artist lived through the 2001 attacks in his/her own way, including one person who lost his firefighter brother, whose body was never found.
Eric Fischl, perhaps the best-known artist of the group is exhibiting the sculpture Tumbling Woman (2002), he said “ The most unforgettable images were of people jumping from the towers. “It was something that was so terrifying to witness and it spoke directly to how horrible it must have been for the victims, that they would choose one form of death over another,” Since 2001 Fischl has created several versions of “Tumbling Woman,” varying in mediums and sizes. The piece itself embodies a horizontal movement rather than a crashing down and is a testimony to those who survived as well as those who died. The figure’s hand reaches out in a gesture of connection. Fischl, who lost a friend in the attacks, is a resident of Long Island where he was on Sept. 11.
Artist Arturo Sanchez Gustavo Bonevardi, creates “Falling” 2007-2009 Graphite on paper. 16 individual drawings, 22 x 17 inches each. 7 feet 10 inches x 6 feet 2 inches when assembled. Bonevardi, a lifelong resident of downtown Manhattan, witnessed the collapse of the towers from his home a few blocks away. Like all New Yorkers at the time, he wanted to contribute somehow to the healing of the city, which is how he came to develop a proposal for “Tribute in Light,” the art installation that illuminates the night sky over lower Manhattan on the anniversary of the attacks. By contrast, the inspiration for his work in this exhibition, the multi-panel drawing “Falling,” came to him unexpectedly, years later, and it was only after conceiving it that he recognized the image was one that had struck him, like many others, as the towers fell. Rendered entirely with hand drawn letters, the work depicts a sky filled with sheets of paper floating, falling or dissolving into space.
Monika Bravo, “September 10, 2001, uno nunca muere la vispera” 2001 Video. 5 minutes. On Sept. 10, 2001, Bravo filmed multiple views from her studio on the 92nd floor of the North Tower as a thunderstorm passed over the city. She later condensed seven hours of footage to create this piece which she had begun for an installation entitled “A_Maze.” Bravo was part of an artist-in-residence program called World Views at the time of the attacks. This piece is dedicated to Michael Richards, a fellow artist in the program who died in the attack on the North Tower. Originally from Colombia, Bravo has lived in Brooklyn since 1994.
Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial Tobi Kahn, “M’AHL” 2011 Acrylic paint on wood. 80 inches x 42 inches x 5 inches. This floor relief is comprised of thousands of wood remnants from pieces created after Sept. 11. When viewed from an elevated perspective, it evokes the view of the city skyline from the South Tower’s Top of the World observatory. Kahn’s studio has been in Long Island City since 1978, where he witnessed the World Trade Center collapse from the street near his studio, Weiss began work on this series three days after the attacks. Using ash from both Ground Zero and what was the World Trade Center garage, he mixed it with black acrylic for most of the series. His images serve as a metaphor of both the towers’ windows and their footprints. The paintings conflate the view through a matrix of layered threads of paint to evoke the structural collapse of the towers and its critical mass, while simultaneously looking right through and beyond it.
Donna Levinstone, “Eternal Rest” 2001 Pastel triptych on paper. 22 1/4 inches x 27 5/8 inches. On loan, courtesy of The New-York Historical Society is a work inspired by photographs, news media and smells that the wind carried to her home. The cloud that formed around these towers seemed to protect and guide many lives to eternal rest. Levinstone is a resident of New York City and was in Manhattan on 9/11. Following the attacks, she took a three-month hiatus from creating art. Credit: Colleen Mulrenan MacFarlane Digital excerpt available.
Michael Mulhern (Ash Road 14-45th) Colleen Mulrenan MacFarlane, “daughter, sept. 13” 2001 Video. 4 minutes. The piece captures the return home of Mulrenan MacFarlane’s father after three days of working around the clock at Ground Zero. Her father, James F. Mulrenan, was a deputy fire chief of the New York City Fire Department on Sept. 11. The piece focuses on Mulrenan MacFarlane’s hands washing her father’s shirt. The soundtrack includes exchanges based on his radio transmissions at the site. Michael Mulhern, “Ash Road 14-45th” and “Ash Road 2-45th” 2002-2003 Oil and aluminium paint on gessoed paper. Two pieces, each 106 inches x 104 inches. Mulhern began the paintings before the attacks and then altered the works after he was personally affected by the dust and smoke that filled his apartment on Sept. 11. The resulting reworked series incorporates ash from the site and juxtaposes a quiet palette of soft silver and gray against bolder swirls of black, steel, and sepia brushstrokes. Mulhern died in 2012.
Christopher Saucedo, “World Trade Center as a Cloud” 2011 Pressed linen pulp on handmade paper. Three panels, each 40 inches x 60 inches. Saucedo, a Brooklyn native, created these images by pressing layers of fine white linen pulp onto a large blue field. The forms reference floating clouds, but on closer inspection can be seen as an ethereal representation of the World Trade Center. The artist’s brothers Stephen and Gregory Saucedo, both New York City firefighters, responded on Sept. 11. Gregory perished in the line of duty during the collapse of the North Tower. His body was never recovered.
Manju Shandler Closeup, “Gesture” 2001-2003 Grease pencil, acrylic and spray paint on polyester film. On display will be 840 representative pieces of the 2,996-piece set, each 4 inches x 9 inches. “Gesture” is an almost 3,000-piece painting installation with one painting for each person who died on 9/11. At the time, Shandler based the death toll on information she had the time. (The victims of the 9/11 attacks totaled 2,977.) This memorial pays tribute to the victims while exploring all the ways in which life has been inextricably altered by these events. When the piece is installed the grouped paintings form vibrant color blocks that subtly shift from red to yellow, white, black and pink. Shandler is a resident of New York City and was in the city on Sept. 11.
Doug and Mike Starn (Fallen #7) Doug and Mike Starn, “Fallen #6” and “Fallen #7” 2001-2002 Printed hand-coated silver emulsion on paper from the collapse of the World Trade Center. 4 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches and 9 x 6 inches. On Sept. 11, the wind carried smoke and scores of paper from the towers across the East River to Brooklyn. The sheets eventually landed around the Starns’ studio. They superimposed decaying leaves over the sheets of scorched paper. The artists began work on the series before 9/11 and altered the work after the attacks. The Starn twins are New York City residents and were headed to their Brooklyn studio at the time of the attacks.
Todd Stone (Lifting) Todd Stone, “Lifting,” “9:03” and “3:45” from “Witness” series 2001 Watercolor on paper. 24 inches x 18 inches, 40 inches x 30 inches, 40 inches x 30 inches. These pieces depict the succession of events centered at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 as seen from Stone’s Tribeca studio on Thomas Street. On 9/11, the artist painted and photographed the events from his rooftop and was later evacuated from his home. Dust that filtered through the windows of his studio served as a base for his “Witness” watercolor series. The debris cloud came rolling north and ended at Duane Street, one block from his home.
The show also includes a performance by the New York-based Blue Man Group entitled, “Exhibit 13” 2003 Video. It is 4 minutes, 10-second video where papers, letters, business forms and personal notes flutter through the air and is inspired by the scraps of paper that blew from the World Trade Center into the yard of their rehearsal space in Brooklyn on Sept. 11, 2001. The members wrote the song, “Exhibit 13,” featuring spoken recitations of the papers’ contents, and created the accompanying video, both named after one of the scorched pieces of paper they found. Blue Man Group members Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton are New York residents and were in various locations in Manhattan on 9/11.
Opens 12 September 9/11 Memorial and Museum NY