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Exhibition features works from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Collection with a focus on new acquisitions
Arthur Jafa, Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, 2016. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Anonymous gift to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2017.34. Images courtesy Arthur Jafa and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome.

CHICAGO, IL.- In January, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents the exhibition Prisoner of Love which explores the heights and depths of human experience, featuring works from the MCA Collection with a focus on new acquisitions. The centerpiece is artist Arthur Jafa’s masterwork Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death, a film that celebrates the African-American experience in the 20th and 21st centuries, set to the soaring, gospel-infused song “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West. The exhibition captures the intensities of love, fear, and grief, as well as other extremes of human emotion. On view from January 26 to October 27, 2019, Prisoner of Love is curated by MCA Senior Curator Naomi Beckwith.

Jafa’s work is a turbulent montage that reveals intense emotions about the black experience in America today through a non-linear story of trauma and transcendence. Rather than follow a single narrative, this multilayered, seven-minute film finds a visual rhythm in found footage—ranging from Civil Rights-era clashes to recent acts of police brutality; from Notorious B.I.G. freestyling to Barack Obama singing Amazing Grace; from James Brown performing on stage to Beyoncé dancing in viral YouTube videos; and numerous sporting events—interspersed with original imagery by Jafa. The work speaks in the languages of contemporary life: montage, media, vernacular culture, and popular music.

Jafa’s video is accompanied by three rotating installations of powerful works of art that engage the visual vocabulary that Jafa uses to such great effect. The show opens with a striking neon sculpture by Bruce Nauman that proposes a neon cycle of stark opposites: life and death, love and hate, and pleasure and pain. These pairs form the thematic basis of the rotating installations in the gallery, featuring selections from the MCA Collection. Highlights include Kerry James Marshall’s Souvenir I, Michael Armitage’s The Flaying of Marsyas, Deana Lawson’s Sons of Cush, and Glenn Ligon’s Untitled (Study #1 for Prisoner of Love), a work quoting Jean Genet’s groundbreaking novel of the same name, which is also the inspiration for the title of the exhibition.

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