The Art of Gathering in The Age of Pandemic

October 12, 2020

The current coronavirus pandemic shed new light on the very nature of human interaction in what appears to be the world as we know it coming to an end. Under the constant exposure of fake news, conspiracy theories, and the reality marked by social dismay and climate crisis, a lot of people lost their compass, and more importantly the willingness to help others who surround them. The fear eats the soul, and the only thing any society should do to grasp and pass through these struggling times is to act collectively and express solidarity.

Therefore, various socio-politically charged debates concerning the pandemic propose the coming together paradigm that refers to an immediate community-based reaction to what is happening on a global scale. To examine this approach through the prism of visual arts, The Chrysler Museum of Art conceived an exhibition called Come Together, Right Now: The Art of Gathering, offering a guide through various examples of coming together throughout the 20th century.

Danny Lyon - SNCC field secretary, later SNCC chairman, now Congressman John Lewis, and others pray during a demonstration, 1962. Gelatin silver print. Museum purchase, in memory of Alice R. and Sol B. Frank © Danny Lyon/Licensed by Magnum Photos

Drawn Together

To explore multifaceted paths of “coming together” and underline the power of communities united by celebrations, love, and demonstrations in the times of hardship, this exhibition will tackle the context of the lockdown and the early days of the pandemic when people were exposed to the harsh social distancing routine while trying to fight the sprawl of the horrific virus. The recent killing of American people of color and the Black Lives Matters movement will be taken into consideration, as the pandemic highlighted the racial, but also class tensions, in the United States and elsewhere.

The Chrysler Museum’s Chief Curator and Irene Leache Curator of European Art, Lloyd DeWitt, Ph.D., briefly stated:

As many have faced unprecedented isolation this year and grappled with social distancing, we believe the time is perfect to celebrate the most powerful things that draw us together. Images of love, dancing, making music, and working together will lift visitors’ spirits and inspire them to reflect. 

Philip Evergood - Music, 1933, revised 1959. Oil on canvas. Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. in memory of Jack Forker Chrysler

The Installment

Come Together encompasses more than one hundred artworks from the museum’s collection, as well as digital photographs by community members, that will be presented through four thematic segments at the museum and in outdoor locations throughout the city.

The first segment Together in Celebration features works depicting collective leisure time of sports, parties, and picnics, while Together in Purpose features images of people united in solidarity for the purpose of social or political struggle. The third segment Together in Justice highlights the historical photography from the Civil Rights Movement, and the final segment Together in Love focuses on affection and passion as the most positive prerequisite for coming together.

Ken Heyman - Israel (Closeup of Men Holding Hands), 1965. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Dr. Donald and Alice Lappe © Ken Heyman

Come Together, Right Now at the Chrysler Museum of Art

The urgency of creating a discursive space where the emancipatory practices could be analyzed and discussed will be enforced by a rich accompanying program of public talks, presentations, and lectures, while the artworks will stand at the forefront of the conversation and suggest new solutions to the challenges we face in an attempt to come together.

Come Together, Right Now: The Art of Gathering will be on display at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia from 11 October 2020 until 3 January 2021.

Featured image: Preston Gannaway - Baptism, 2013. Archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Pearl paper with Canon Lucia ink. Museum purchase © Preston Gannaway; Marilyn Nance - Three Placards (Elijah Muhammad, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X), June 14, 1986. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Joyce F. and Robert B. Menschel © Marilyn Nance. All images courtesy Chrysler Museum.