(MONTCLAIR, NJ) — The Galleries of Montclair State University will present the exhibition Nothing under heaven by Joseph Liatela from September 13 to December 9, 2022. The exhibition will be on view at the University Galleries’ newly designed flagship showroom, the George Segal Gallery.
The artist’s first solo exhibition at the museum brings together new commissions and recent works that explore the need for connection, pleasure and agency within oppressive systems. Exhibited alongside photographs by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and religious art by Carlo Dolci (1616-1686) from the university galleries’ collection, Liatela draws on a series of stories to assess what it means to move together to remember together and to repair together .
in the Nothing under heavenLiatela relates shared spaces of experience – churches, medical facilities and associations – in which promises of salvation and healing mix with loss and grief. By unifying these disparate spaces through a range of media and interdisciplinary analysis, Liatela shows how these seemingly disparate environments contain similar contradictions that impact the way we perceive ourselves and each other.
Within the exhibition, the search for absolution in a church, the potential for recovery through medical care, and the whirlwind escapism of the club intertwine. Liatela also blends ideologies of the afterlife—the worship of patron saints, the opportunity to dance with the spirits of lost loved ones, and the lingering specter of death in hospitals—to further emphasize their similarities while making their differences visible.
This tension is explored in relation to the complexities of a medical system that is highly biased and inaccessible despite being positioned as a care system. Liatela also makes correlations between devotion, redemption, punishment and pleasure through sculptures that evoke the visual language of both the nightclub and Catholic objects intended to place the body in a position of worship. Similarly, Liatela designs the club as a necessary place of gathering and community with queer lineages in response to exclusion. In search of more moments of reprieve and solidarity within these larger systems, Liatela finds company in his chosen ancestors Andy Warhol, the Archangel Gabriel, historically depicted as having no fixed gender (painted by Carlo Dolci), and James Baldwin, who is the title was awarded the exhibition. Giving a visual form to the simultaneous but dichotomous conditions explored in the exhibition, Liatela distills a complex network of emotional, spiritual and physical experiences.
The exhibition is curated by Jesse Bandler Firestone, curator and exhibition coordinator of the University Galleries.
“By connecting aspects of religious belief, healthcare and underground spaces, Liatela offers the opportunity to reframe our understanding of the connections between these fields,” Firestone said. “The ecstatic joy shared on the dance floor, the yearning for salvation in a church, and the uneasiness or alienation felt in a hospital waiting room are all blurred and recategorized. These emotional experiences should be considered and lived through.”
Highlights of the exhibition include:
* To move is to remember, 2022 sees the club as a place where absence and collective movement unite with joy and delight. Liatela finds that mourning and celebration are simultaneously embodied, processed and expressed through movement on the dance floor.
* About being an idea (the right to live without permission), 2019, contains copies of the 4th edition “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” which still listed “gender identity disorder” as an acceptable diagnosis. Bound with rope, the books discuss how a diagnosis can affect the body and shape what is considered deviant.
A fully illustrated digital publication will be available.
Opening hours of the gallery: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Thursday, 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Open on selected Saturdays of the month and by appointment.
Programs & Events
opening reception – Thursday, September 22, 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Celebrate the opening of Nothing under heaven with a live performance by To move is to remember. Notes from Director Megan C. Austin, Curator Jesse Bandler Firestone, and Artist Joseph Liatela
art forum – Monday, February 26, 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Artist Joseph Liatela in conversation with curator Jesse Bandler Firestone in collaboration with Montclair State University’s Art & Design program.
curatorial tour – Thursday, November 3, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Visit exhibition curator Jesse Bandler Firestone in the gallery to learn more about the themes and content of the exhibition.
The Galleries of Montclair State University brings together ideas, perspectives and dialogue to encourage curiosity and shared understanding through art. The university galleries present diverse and inclusive exhibitions and programs that create connections that unite the campus experience with local and global communities. All exhibitions and programs are free and open to the public.
PHOTO: To move is to remember, 2022. Live Performance. Dancers: Héctor Cerna and Chris Tabassi. Photo by Whitney Browne.
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