December 9, 2011 - San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) - The Air We Breathe
December 9, 2011

The Air We Breathe

Raymond Pettibon, “No Title (Paint fills them),” 2003.*

The Air We Breathe
Through February 20

151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103-3107

In the belief that art, in both its visual and written forms, generates dialogue and amplifies understanding, The Air We Breathe brings together commissioned work by 30 contemporary artists and eight poets to reflect on one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our day—the cause of marriage equality for same-sex couples.

The exhibition—its title drawn from a Langston Hughes poem—is organized by SFMOMA Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Apsara DiQunizio, and is accompanied by a large-format illustrated book, featuring essays by Eileen Myles, Martha Nussbaum, Frank Rich, and DiQuinzio.

Visual artists in the exhibition include Laylah Ali, D-L Alvarez, Doug Ashford, Nayland Blake, Jennifer Bornstein, Andrea Bowers, Robert Buck, Johanna Calle, Martha Colburn, Sam Durant, Shannon Ebner, Nicole Eisenman, Simon Fujiwara, Liam Gillick, Robert Gober, Ann Hamilton, Sharon Hayes, Christian Holstad, Elliott Hundley, Colter Jacobsen, Matt Keegan, Carlos Motta, Catherine Opie, Nicolás Paris, Dan Perjovschi, Raymond Pettibon, Amy Sillman, Allison Smith, Lily van der Stokker, and Erika Vogt. Poets include George Albon, Will Alexander, John Ashbery, Dodie Bellamy, kari edwards (poem selected by Frances Blau and Rob Halpern), Kevin Killian, Ariana Reines, and Anne Waldman.

Each contributor was asked to make a new work and was encouraged to approach the subject in any manner that was true to his or her working method. Certain recurrent themes surface throughout the diverse contributions: love, equality, human connection, anonymity, and a critique of traditional definitions for domestic partnerships. A multiplicity of styles and voices was sought; if the works have anything in common it is that they all communicate on an intimate and universal level, through means that are open-ended yet direct, imaginative, and thought-provoking.

This project aims to foster an open, honest forum that frames the subject in a different light, one that avoids the often-polarizing rhetoric of the American political landscape and, in effect, expands the conversation on the subject, giving it greater room to breathe. It is the museum’s hope that the project will act as a catalyst for thoughtful inquiry and provide a dynamic space for various forms of dialogue to occur. Read more

The Air We Breathe is organized by SFMOMA. Major support is provided by the Teiger Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Annalee Newman Fund of The New York Community Trust, at the suggestion of John Silberman. Funding for the book The Air We Breathe: Artists and Poets Reflect on Marriage Equality has been generously provided by the David Teiger Foundation and the New York Community Trust.

*Image above:
Courtesy the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles; © Raymond Pettibon.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
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