This fall, Montclair State University Galleries will present two new exhibitions: “Nothing Under Heaven,” by Joseph Liatela in the Segal Gallery and “Case Studies 1: Damien Davis – OLD CURRENCIES” in the Kasser Theater lobby, both on view through Dec. 9, 2022. The exhibitions and programs are free and open to the public.
Expanding the Galleries’ footprint, Director Megan C. Austin and Curator Jesse Bandler Firestone initiated “Case Studies,” a new exhibition series in the Kasser Theater lobby. “Case Studies” pairs solo presentations from contemporary artists with objects in our collection. “Case Studies 1: Damien Davis – OLD CURRENCIES” brings together new and recent works by Damien Davis, on loan from Uprise Art, that explore Blackness through symbols, shapes, colors and digital technology.
In the Segal Gallery, Joseph Liatela’s “Nothing Under Heaven,” is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition. The works explore the need for connection, pleasure and agency within oppressive systems and unite spaces of communal experience – churches, medical institutions and clubs – through a range of mediums and interdisciplinary analysis to depict how promises of salvation and healing come close to loss and grief. By connecting these different environments, Liatela reveals how their similar contradictions impact the way we perceive ourselves and each other.
“Much of this show explores how the materials of grief and celebration overlap, as well as how bodies hold and repurpose history,” Liatela says. “For example, a gesture can reach across empires and decades, the dance floor can be a place to move again with the ghosts of friends lost to AIDS, or to pay pilgrimage to queer and trans ancestors.”
Alongside works by Liatela are objects from the University’s permanent collection by Andy Warhol and baroque painter Carlo Dolci. Liatela finds company with his chosen ancestors Andy Warhol, the Archangel Gabriel who has historically been depicted without a fixed gender (painted by Carlo Dolci), and James Baldwin to whom the title of the exhibition pays homage.
“The ecstatic joy shared on the dance floor, the yearning for salvation in a church and the discomfort or alienation felt in the waiting room at a hospital are all blurred and recategorized. These emotional experiences are meant to be contemplated and moved through,” says Firestone, who also serves as the University Galleries’ exhibition coordinator.
The Segal Gallery will also host a series of scheduled events to promote the exhibition and engage the University community. An opening reception and live performance will be held on Sept. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m., and Liatela will be in conversation with Firestone on Sep. 26 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Firestone will lead a curator’s tour on Nov. 3 from 1 to 2 p.m.
Artist Liatela said his intention for the exhibit is to inspire students and the public.
“It has been wonderful to collaborate across different departments at the University in order to bring this interdisciplinary exhibition to life,” Liatela says. “My hope is that this exhibition can be a space where students and the public can move, think, learn and envision new ways of existing with one another in a world that exceedingly requires us to.”
Director Austin explains that both Davis’ and Liatela’s works align with the Gallery’s mission and curatorial vision.
“It’s important that our exhibition programming sparks dialogues across disciplines and unearths complex conversations,” Austin says. “The ‘Case Studies’ series of Davis’ will offer an extension of our space beyond the walls of our primary gallery and into our neighboring exhibition space in the Alexander Kasser Theater. Both Davis and Liatela’s evocative work asks the viewer to observe, reflect and question their own views. It’s these points of engagement with art and community that are at the heart of what we do at the University Galleries.”
The Segal Gallery is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 5 p.m., Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m. and on select Saturdays by appointment. The Kasser Theater lobby is open Tuesday to Friday, from noon to 6 p.m.
For additional information, visit the University Galleries website at montclair.edu/galleries.