Learning to Look
The work communicates through its presence in a way that goes beyond words. The day I visited, I arrived at the same time as a bus-load of high school kids. Like me, they entered the exhibition not sure how to respond to the work, and we all relied on the exhibition guide to give us a context, a way to make sense of what we were seeing. There are several rooms in the exhibition, and the guide has a page for each room. At first I thought I was going to have to rely on the guide to explain every work. I realized by the third room, however, that I was no longer referring immediately to the guide as I entered, unconsciously beginning to trust my instinctive response to the work. The same thing was happening with the high school students. We continued to move through the exhibition at a similar pace. By the time we reached the final room, the guide was more or less an afterthought for all of us. I'm not sure I can explain that exactly, but I believe it speaks to the powerful way the work communicates (and, I should add, to the brilliant writing of the curator).
I hope you will have an opportunity to experience this exhibition in person. I trust you will find it incredibly moving, as I did.
David Hooker, a sculptor, is associate professor of art at Wheaton College, where he chairs the department.
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