Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon at The Menil Collection
25 September 2020
Early Christian texts describe acedia as a demon that besieges the soul at noon, when the day listlessly drags and delirious visions momentarily reign in the blinding light. From September 26, 2020, through June 20, 2021, summer solstice, the Menil Collection will present a major exhibition of seven sculptural works by the artists Allora & Calzadilla that revolve around this concept, serving as a manifestation of noon’s hold over humankind and as a metaphor for the uncertainties defining our time. Created specifically for the Menil Collection’s main building, Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon will use sounds, cast shadows, and novel sculptural materials to evoke an awe-inducing atmosphere of bewilderment and beauty.
The Puerto Rico-based artists visited the Menil Collection repeatedly over the course of four years to develop this exhibition and studied the museum’s renowned archives and holdings of Surrealist works of art. They explored the historic role that Surrealism played in the Caribbean in the years surrounding World War II, including its pivotal role in anti-colonialism, and the movement’s fascination with the importance of noon. Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla extended their research by connecting this history to the current moment by seeking out shared connections between Houston and their own home of San Juan, both port cities that have been deeply impacted by energy commerce and the effects of a changing climate. Among the works that have emerged is Blackout, 2020 (pictured), created from a Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority transformer that exploded during Hurricane Maria in 2017. The artists bisected the transformer’s steel exterior to expose its interior workings, which they cast in bronze. The shiny metallic conductive wire, radiator pipes, and insulators are juxtaposed with the matte exterior casing, creating a sculptural division that references the exhibition’s theme of solar noon, when the sun, at its zenith, cuts the day in half. The deep hum of reverberating electricity buried in the relic will serve as a tuning device for a live vocal performance composed by Grammy Award winning, Pulitzer Prize-winner, and Oscar nominated avant-garde composer David Lang, and is inspired by the sounds of electricity and a volatile power grid.
Read more about Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon at The Menil Collection here.
Image: Installation view of Allora & Calzadilla’s Blackout, 2020. Power transformer, bronze, electricity, vocalists, 120 1/2 × 85 1/2 × 78 3/4 inches (306.1× 217.2 × 200 cm). (Meter Number 18257262, Consumption Charge 36.9 kWh x $0.02564, Rider FCA-Fuel Charge Adjusted 36.9 kWh x $0.053323, Rider PPCA-Purchase Power Charge Adjusted 36.9 kWh x $0.016752, Rider CILTA-Municipalities Adjusted 36.9 kWh x $0.002376, Rider SUBA subsidies $1.084), 2019. Iron filings on linen, overall: 72 × 840 inches (182.9 × 2133.6 cm), each: 72 × 120 inches (182.9 × 304.8 cm). Photo: Paul Heste