MIRROR CELLS at the Whitney Museum

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A group exhibition featuring sculpture by Liz Craft, Rochelle Goldberg, Elizabeth Jaeger, Maggie Lee and Win McCarthy.

Mirror Cells, opened on May 13th at the Whitney Museum of the American Art and organized by Whitney associate curators Christopher Y. Lew ad Jane Panetta, presents an environment of new sculptures by five young artist who each explore narrative and aesthetic links among objects, immersing viewers in strange invented worlds.

The exhibition’s title refers to mirror neurons — specialized brain cells that are activated when observing the behavior of others. Researchers have theorized that these cells allow us to feel the joy and pain of others and associate them with understanding human intention and feelings of empathy. Accordingly, the works presented in the exhibition are often made as empathetic responses to events such as the loss of a loved one, preoccupations of a particular community, or changes that impact the world more broadly. Referencing both fantasy and real-life experience, they address broad concerns like inequality and climate change as well as more personal narratives connected to trauma and loss. Maggie Lee’s video-based installations chart her family’s ups and downs, while Win McCarthy’s precarious sculptures are imbued with the anxiety of daily life in an unstable world. Likewise, the anthropomorphic shapes of Elizabeth Jaeger’s large-scale ceramic vessels imply ambiguous emotions, and Liz Craft’s works are connected through gossipy internal dialogues reflected in sculptural mouths, word bubbles, and spider women. Finally, Rochelle Goldberg’s installation alludes to unstable environments and questions of survival through her use of morphing forms and the growth cycles of living things.

Largely composed of modest materials such as wood, clay, plaster, and fabric, these works engage the viewer through a sense of immediacy and tactility. In contract to much recent art that focuses on the digital and technological, the works here reflect a deep interest in materiality and the historical traditions of sculpture. In connection with Mirror Cells, the Museum will hold three special screenings of Maggie Lee’s 2015 film Mommy, which explores the artist’s own coming of age and her mother’s life unexpected death.

The exhibition will remain on view though August 21 st in the Museum’s Hurst Family Galleries on the eight floor.

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MUSEUMS by Lorenzo Lars Vallot