The Pieta (meaning “pity” in Italian) is the well-established Christian image or sculpture depicting Jesus Christ in the lap of his mother, the Virgin Mary, after he has been crucified. As an emblem of suffering and devotion, and hope of resurrection and salvation personified in Mary, the composition has been copied, reinterpreted and re-contextualized extensively throughout art history—perhaps the most famous example being Michelangelo’s marble Pietà, completed in 1499.
In our exhibition, doubling as a final project following a course called Exhibition Systems and Curating led by Meleko Mokgosi, and co-taught by Greater New York 2015 curator Mia Lockes, we intend to curate a show based on the convention of the pietà as an iconographic and formal point of departure.
Instead of proposing a ‘new pieta’ to revitalize what has been established within the realm of the art historical, we propose this iconographic object as an aperture for a wide, eclectic archetypal field. We will explore contemporary representations of the mother- son relationship, grief, salvation, collaboration, and, in particular, the complexity of the Mary-Christ relationship. The Virgin is simultaneously Christ’s mother and child and in the moment she embraces him she holds both his adult body and the memory of him as an infant, embodying a foreshadowing of his own fate.
In curating a body of works by contemporary artists, we will depart from the classical symbolic implications of the pieta form in an attempt to curate a lyrical whole which considers even the most literal aspects of the form, eg., a seated sculpture. Therefore, the organizing principle will be a collection of works that reflect all aspects of the pieta, literal and metaphorical, hopeful and macabre, personal and allegorical.
With guidance from Meleko Mokgosi and Mia Lockes.