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Frist to host “Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century”

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Frist to host “Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century”

NASHVILLE: The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is hosting Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century, a sweeping survey of contemporary art from around the world, celebrates paint’s capacity to weave together images of physical reality, memories, emotions, and the virtual world. The artists in the exhibition dramatically describe the destabilizing effects of such 21st-century forces as globalism, mass migration, radical ideologies, and complex technologies. The exhibit will run from June 22–September 16.

Ahmed Alsoudani (b. 1975, Baghdad; based in New York). Birds, 2015. Acrylic, charcoal, and colored pencil on canvas, 82 x 52 in. Courtesy of the artist and Marlborough Contemporary. © Ahmed Alsoudani

The feelings these artists express, which range from despair at humanity’s darker side to exhilaration at ever-expanding possibilities, are associated with the sublime, a concept that has traditionally referred to being awestruck by the unfathomable power of God and nature. While this can involve sensations of terror and helplessness, it can also relate to wonder, as discussed by the 19th-century artist and critic John Ruskin:

“Anything which elevates the mind is sublime, and elevation of mind is produced by the contemplation of greatness of any kind. … Sublimity is, therefore, only another word for the effect of greatness upon the feelings; greatness, whether of matter, space, power, virtue, or beauty: and there is perhaps no desirable quality of a work of art, which, in its perfection, is not, in some way or degree, sublime.”

Chaos and Awe shows painting to be an apt medium for conveying a contemporary notion of the sublime, with works in the exhibition providing visual analogies for the great depth and mystery of the human mind and its extension into the world.


Franz Ackermann
Ahmed Alsoudani
Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh
Korakrit Arunanondchai
Radcliffe Bailey

Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972, Nairobi; based in Brooklyn). Untitled from Tumors, 2004. Acrylic, ink, collage, and contact paper on Mylar, 49 x 42 in. Pizzuti Collection. © Wangechi Mutu. Image courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels

Ali Banisadr
Pedro Barbeito
Jeremy Blake
Matti Braun
Dean Byington
Hamlett Dobbins
Nogah Engler
Anoka Faruqee
Barnaby Furnas
Ellen Gallagher
Wayne Gonzales
Wade Guyton
Rokni Haerizadeh
Peter Halley
Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga
Rashid Johnson
Guillermo Kuitca
Heather Gwen Martin
Julie Mehretu
Jiha Moon
Wangechi Mutu
James Perrin
Neo Rauch
Matthew Ritchie
Rachel Rossin
Pat Steir
Barbara Takenaga
Dannielle Tegeder
Kazuki Umezawa
Charline von Heyl
Sarah Walker
Corinne Wasmuht
Sue Williams

Photography of Chaos and Awe for personal use is allowed. Flash, monopods, tripods, and video cameras are prohibited at all times and in all galleries.

The Chaos and Awe catalogue is available for purchase in the gift shop.

A multimedia tour of Chaos and Awe is available on our free mobile app.

This exhibition was organized by the Frist Art Museum. The museum is located at 919 Broadway.

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