A Body Measured Against the Earth

Saturday, Aug 25, 2018 – Apr 7, 2019

220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

This summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago opens a body measured against the earth, an exhibition of work largely drawn from the MCA Collection that focuses on artists who stage encounters between the earth and the body. The title comes from a quote, "Walking...is how the body measures itself against the Earth," by ecofeminist writer Rebecca Solnit, who writes about the spiritual, intellectual, and aesthetic significance of walking. The exhibition features artists using their bodies as their primary tool to measure, understand, and document the landscape, and investigating specific places and histories. A body measured against the earth is on view from August 25, 2018 to April 7, 2019 and is organized by Jared Quinton, former MCA Curatorial Fellow. 
The exhibition takes inspiration from the ephemeral 'earth-body' works staged by Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta during the 1970s, in which she imprinted shapes of her silhouette into sites in Mexico and Cuba and preserved them as a series of photographs titled Siluetas. Drawing on her experience as an immigrant, the series explores themes of displacement and re-establishing lost connections with place, history, and identity, and reflects Mendieta's belief in the body as the artist's most powerful medium. 
Mendieta's work is shown alongside that of her contemporaries, Richard Long and Hamish Fulton, who pioneered the field of "walking art" which documented their walks through nature using photography and text. These artists worked in dialogue with the larger Land Art movement, in which artists considered the landscape as both a site and a material for art production. In Turtle Pond, Michelle Stuart uses the earth as a medium, bringing the ground directly into the gallery.
The exhibit weaves the legacies of these artists alongside more recent work in conceptual photography and video. A photograph from Maria Gaspar's acclaimed Disappearance Suits series depicts the artist in a suit that was designed to literally disappear and reappear into a specific landscape, considering the relationship between the politicized body and the remote, romantic landscape. The legacy of migration is present in Carrie Mae Weems' 1992 triptych, Ebo Landing, which uses text and landscape photography to tell the story of a mass suicide by Igbo people destined for slavery in the American South. Jeanne Dunning's photographic series, Studies After Untitled Landscape further articulates a relationship between the body and the earth by drawing parallels between the surface of the skin and the surface of the land.