Throughout history and all over the world, the classic elements of earth, water, air, fire, and æther have been used to explore questions about the origins of life on earth and evoke profound feelings in all humankind. The Clyfford Still Museum’s (CSM) new exhibition Still: Elemental explores Clyfford Still’s vibrant works through the lens of these elements. Each gallery in the exhibition includes unique, multisensory features to engage the senses and inspire imagination.
According to CSM associate curator Bailey Placzek, Still wanted to create something that was timeless, universal, and that taps into the core of what it means to be alive in this world. “Just as standing in front of a beautiful sunset or witnessing a raging wildfire inspires deeply-felt, basic emotions in us all—you don’t need any sort of art history background or knowledge of art to have a meaningful experience in front of Still’s work.”
While the artworks in Still: Elemental are not literal representations of the elements, Placzek wanted to create an environment that would encourage a visceral, all-encompassing experience for her first large-scale exhibition. “Still’s artwork is intended to be transcendent, experiential, and to connect to humanity on an intrinsic level rather than to convey a specific, concrete message,” said Placzek. “Each room is designed to be immersive and convey an emotional power reminiscent of one of the elements. Multisensory features like sound and smell have been incorporated to reinforce and bolster these ideas.”
The skylit galleries incorporate the multisensory features of smell in earth, hearing in fire and air, and sight in water. The final gallery challenges visitors to be fully present in the space to evoke feeling and emotion for Aristotle’s cosmic element æther.
In addition to the exhibition, the Museum will host a variety of programs and events incorporating the elemental themes of the exhibition. Examples include a Curatorial Tour with Bailey Harberg Placzek, Smell This Show tours incorporating a variety of scents in the galleries, Family Tours with lessons and art projects highlighting the elements, a conversation about how the elements impact the conservation of Still’s works, and more.
Visitors of all ages also have the opportunity to create their own unique artworks in the Museum’s hands-on art creation studio The Making Space.
Still: Elemental will be open until January 12, 2020. Visit clyffordstillmuseum.org for more information on the exhibition and programs.