Critiques

2020 Vision at a Stunning Art Exhibit in Southampton

Photos from the "2020 Vision" exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

As we bid the year 2020 goodbye, these visuals and testimonies from the Southampton Arts Center exhibit “2020 Vision” remind us again of how much the world has endured in just 10 short months. We’re sharing our photos from the contemporary art group exhibit “2020 Vision,” featuring paintings, works on paper, sculpture and photography. It’s a display of contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020. The show has been extended until January 3, 2021 – so it’s not too late to see it for yourself. And it’s free!

The Year 2020 in Images and Notes from American Artists

Of all the things we missed the most during the Great Lockdown, visiting museums and other cultural institutions was near the top of our list.

So imagine our surprise and delight when we discovered on a weekend escape to the Hamptons this fall that the Southampton Arts Center is open. And that the current exhibit is a stunning meditation on life in 2020.

contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020

Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit of contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

When we saw these images in early October, which were curated by David Kratz and Stephanie Roach, the year 2020 still had three more months to run – and we still had the Presidential election to live through. Still, the images have stayed with us. And they provide as good a record as any we’ve seen so far of real life in the year 2020.

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catch the video!

Dear reader, in case you’re more in the mood for pictures than words, we’ve created a 3-minute slide show to share many of the images that resonated with us at the “2020 Vision” exhibit this fall. Watch it, or read on – or both!

Can contemporary art help us make sense of 2020?

What is there to say about 2020? Especially from the vantage point of early October 2020? When we saw the exhibit “2020 Vision” at the Southampton Arts Center, it was just two days after the President of the United States was diagnosed with COVID-19.

We had so many words. And yet, we were speechless.

The power of art to make sense of the senseless, the unspeakable, the unimaginable . . . that’s one of the aching losses we felt during the shelter-in-place restrictions that kept us sheltering in place at home for most of this year.

But is it too soon? Can even the most talented artists have perspective on an annus horriblis that is still unfolding?

Dear reader, they can.

contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020

Seen on the wall: Kate Clark, The Sisters’ Embrace, 2019.  Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit of contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

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“2020 Vision” Provides a Starting Point

This group exhibition was commissioned through requests to a wide range of artists to portray “what they saw, what they felt, and what they experienced” in the first half of 2020. And it’s not just images. This exhibition also invites notable writers and leaders to share their thoughts. Their words are interspersed seamlessly with the art installations.

The kind receptionist who welcomed us into the exhibition when we visited advised that “it’s really important to read the words as well as viewing the paintings and installations.” Excellent advice, as it turns out. Together, the words and pictures are a powerful testament to this life we’re living right now, collectively and alone.

Five Themes Threaded Throughout “2020 Vision”

Black Lives Matter. Coronavirus. Economic despair. Social isolation. Climate change and crisis. And a national leadership vacuum. Peak 2020.

What did this group exhibition have to say about it all? What did it teach us? Have a look.

1. BLM and the struggle for social justice

The first image that greets you at the door of the Arts Center is a bold declaration of purpose. Once we saw that, we were all in on this exhibit.

contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020

Tim Okamura, Everybody VS Injustice, 2020. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit of contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Throughout, there are images and statements that testify to the pain and the dignity of the struggle for racial and social justice.

Left: Richard Dupont’s Badende, 2020. Right: Phillip Thomas, Selves Portrait, 2015. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

The work on this subject that will stay with us long after this year is over, though, is the one entitled “Baltimore Funerals.” The title says it all.

contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020

Chris Wilson, Baltimore Funerals, 2020. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit of contemporary art about social justice and BLM, COVID-19, and life in 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

2. Contagion, Illness and Loss

A centerpiece of the exhibition is a statue somewhat reminiscent of Degas’ young ballerinas. Except this one is bowed down with the weight of loss and grief.

Curtis’s Index, Curtis Bashaw, Cape May Hotelier at the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center. The sculpture is Richard Dupont’s Badende, 2020.

A haunting painting captures the chaos and small rays of hope generated by the 7:00P cacophony of horns blowing, pots banging, and people cheering for the essential workers each night this spring.

Matthew Hansel, 7pm Window Sills, 2020. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

It wouldn’t be 2020 without face masks, right? Candace Hill’s face mask sculptures – woven in brilliant colors with fabrics from all over the world – carry somber and ominous messages. One is called George Floyd – Matthew 5:7, 2020. Another is Gas Mask What Strike, 2020.

Another expression of illness and loss is Vincent Desiderio’s Double Self-Portrait, 2020. A stark painting that reminds us of the AIDS plague years. It portrays two young adult men – one clearly ill, and the other tenderly caring for him. And yet with this plague, many are completely alone – and trying to care for themselves.

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3. Social Isolation

Another stunning installation addresses the impact of social isolation during the COVID-19 quarantine.

A beautiful table is set, and yet there are only two chairs, and two video monitors at its far ends.  We are sort of together with our loved ones.

Photos from the "2020 Vision" exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Rachel Lee Hovnanian, Dinner for Two, 2012. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

And yet we are so far apart.

Left: Tawny Chatmon, Eden’s Playdress: The Redemption Series, 2019. Center: Rachel Lee Hovnanian, Dinner for Two, 2012. Wall Quote: The Future of the Art Gallery, Wendy Olsof. Right: Kurt Kauper, Fantasy #1: Bus Stop, 2019. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

The burden of the coronavirus pandemic falls differently but still heavily on the young, and that often goes unnoticed. They’re far less likely to fall ill – but they suffer from the social isolation and the unwanted pause in their plans and paths as much as their elders do. Maybe even more.

Left: Adam Lupton, On Joy and Sorrow (3), 2016. Wall Quote: Looking Forward, Brynne Rebele-Henry. Right: Tim Buckley, Cursed Gazebo, 2017. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

The poem “Eastertide 2020” by Sarah Paley is a perfect summation of the grief and sadness of seeing treasured holiday traditions fall by the wayside.

Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

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4. The Consolation of Family Ties

COVID-19 takes away. But it also gives. One of the most treasured effects of mandatory sheltering in place is that kids and often-distanced and distracted working parents found each other again. Adult kids moved back home, and for some it was a precious gift of time with their parents. Things like the simple rituals of family meals and time together in the kitchen forged bonds that might otherwise never have been so strong.

Amy Bennett, Cereal Boxes, 2020. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

It made some parents especially grateful. Because it provided a do-over and a chance to get it right.

A Life in a Day, Brooke Shields. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

5. Coping Skills and Silver Linings

Of course, there’s wry humor and comedy in the mix, even in 2020. Take, for example, this 9-panel work that glorifies everyday objects that we once took for granted: a roll of toilet paper. A can of black beans. Hand sanitizer!

Bastienne Schmidt, Untitled 1–9, Everyday Objects in the Time of a Pandemic, 2020. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

A series of comic-book-like illustrations of headlines with a date stamp are a humorous and poignant reminder of just how much the world has been through this year.

Pamela Sztybel, News Notebook, 2020. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

silence is golden

Nature certainly seemed to benefit from the Great Pause in human activity. Whales reveled in the newfound silence of the world’s oceans.

Pamela Sztybel, News Notebook, 2020. Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

women leaders get it done

And while many nations struggled and fumbled in their response to the pandemic, an interesting fact about national leadership emerged. Countries led by women performed significantly better during the crisis.

contemporary art exhibit about BLM, COVID-19 and life in 2020

Photos from the “2020 Vision” exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York. Contemporary art exhibit about BLM, COVID-19 and life in 2020. Pamela Sztybel, News Notebook, 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

farewell to bad hair days!

The brightest ray of hope of all may be the work documenting women who decided to shave their heads during the Great Lockdown. One of the things this mandatory isolation has given us is the freedom to take chances with the way we present ourselves to the world. Like the start of a new school year, there’s no better time to reinvent.

contemporary art exhibit about BLM, COVID-19 and life in 2020

Shaved Heads in Lockdown, Emma Gilbey Keller. Photo image credits: 1. Jackye Calderon, LMTonline 2. Genesis Davidson 3. Mahesh Dilip 4. Francesca Fontana 5. Francesca Geyoro 6. @ejellybaby 7. Izabel Goveia 8. Karene Horner-Hughes 9. Babette Meyer 10. Newsflare.com.  Photos from the “2020 Vision” contemporary art exhibit at the Southampton Arts Center, New York about BLM, COVID-19 and life in 2020. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

“2020 Vision” on a year like no other

Art is many things for all of us: provocation, consolation, inspiration. This marvelous exhibit delivers all three in a remarkably compact space. Just one more thing to love about the Hamptons: you can be immersed in culture that will change the way you feel and think about the world. And then you can go back to the beach.

In these waning days of 2020, what are the images that are uppermost in your mind? Which of these may become part of your story now – and in the years to come? Whichever ones you choose, stay safe and strong out there, dear reader. A new day is coming.

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