Chaos & Awe

Interview by Savannah Potter
Issue 69 • November 2018 • Norfolk

Art of a timeless expression is being presented in a revolutionary manner—just in time for voting season.

Above: Ali Banisadr (b. 1976, Tehran; based in New York) Contact, 2013

Here in Virginia, it’s an election month. As anxieties in the Commonwealth become increasingly political and global in nature, exhibits like the Chrysler Museum’s Chaos & Awe: Painting for the 21st Century are essential to examining personal and community-held ideals. The collection contains 50 pieces from more than 30 international artists. Each piece challenges the duality of modern times in which mankind is both more connected and more isolated than ever before.

Jiha Moon (b. 1973, Daegu, South Korea; based in Atlanta) Pied de grue, 2012

Organized by Frist Art Museum’s Chief Curator, Marc Scala, the exhibition is meant to be both breathtaking and contemplative. Kimberli Gant, the Chrysler Museum’s McKinnon Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, said she hopes that visitors will be moved to consider “humankind’s incredible capacity for excitement and devastation.”

Fitting with the Chrysler’s mission to constantly expand their visitors’ aesthetic boundaries, Chaos & Awe brings together the work of international artists that is rarely shown in the Norfolk area. Organized into seven sections, the exhibit is intended to invoke visceral emotional reactions. Gant said that the sections condense broad ideas while simultaneously demonstrating the limiting ramifications of oversimplifying complex subjects. There is duality and meaning in every element of the show. The works are political, but they are also beautiful. The artists are different ages, ethnicities, religions, and genders, collectively creating a tapestry of human experience.

Peter Halley (b. 1953, New York) Amorphous Compression, 2009

While recommended for mature audiences, all are welcome to experience the sublime through these dazzling paintings. The exhibition addresses timely and relevant subjects such as mass migration, the rise of technology, and the global effects of radicalism. Gant explained that the collection displays “two sides of the same coin” bearing a “historic conceptualization of human interaction in the world.”

While moving, the purpose of the exhibition is not to inform, but to inspire. The museum hopes that visitors to the exhibition will consider their impact on the worldwide community, while also expanding their own understanding of global issues. Gant also mentioned that the exhibition is best experienced when approached with an open mind. The subject matter is heavy; rushing through will limit one’s experience, so be sure to plan ahead and give yourself time to ruminate on themes often brushed aside during day-to-day life. Gant challenges visitors to consider progress for progress’s sake. The exhibit begs these important questions: Change is inevitable, but are we moving too quickly? Are we not progressing quickly enough? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, a concept beautifully captured by Chaos & Awe.

Rachel Rossin (b. 1987, West Palm Beach; based in New York) I Came And Went As A Ghost Hand (Cycle II), 2015

Chaos & Awe opens November 16 and will be on view through April 28. A dance performance choreographed by Todd Rosenlieb Dance and performed by the Virginia Ballet Theater will take place February 2. Curator Mark Scala will present After Hours with Chaos & Awe February 17. Learn more at

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