opening reception: Friday, June 25, 5–7 pm
Works by: Talia Chetrit, Marti Cormand, Petah Coyne, Angelo Filomeno, John Gerrard,
Jane Hammond, Ellen Harvey, Alfredo Jaar, Jannis Kounellis, Louise Lawler,
Miranda Lichtenstein, Robert Mapplethorpe, Yasumasa Morimura, Jaume Plensa, Charles Ritchie,
Sally Ross, Kate Shepherd, Erin Shirreff, Kiki Smith, Lynn Talbot, Antoni Tàpies,
Wolfgang Tillmans, Jeff Wall, and Jonas Wood
The Fifth Genre: Considering the Contemporary Still Life highlights the enduring relevance and
resonance of the still life, the often undervalued genre of academic painting. Artists today are using still
life to investigate contemporary issues such as consumerism and sustainability, while continuing in the
genre’s traditional themes of perception, reality, and mortality. In the exhibition, the artists convey the
persisting power of the still life to portray the changing using the unchanging, the intangible using the
tangible. The Fifth Genre opens to the public on Friday, June 25, from 5 to 7 pm.
The Fifth Genre takes its name from the five genres of academic painting: history, portraiture, genre
painting, landscape, and still life. During a time of continued upheaval and uncertainty, artists of all media
have been instinctually drawn to still life and the modest, everyday objects that are its subject: flowers,
vessels, food, household items, and even trash. Through their commonness, the pieces that surround us
every day display deeply intimate associations. Today, through its inherent “emptiness,” the still life
presents an affecting contradiction to the saturation of images and information we experience.
The universality of still life lends itself to being successfully translated across media and approaches, as
shown by the diverse set of works in the exhibition. Photographers employ traditional compositions in a
contemporary medium and challenge our sense of perspective. Through sculpture, ordinary objects are
physically isolated and exalted. Meanwhile, artists working in animation or video subvert the genre by
activating the subjects of still life into moving images. The exhibition also features artists using age-old
symbols of vanitas to emphasize our fragile, fleeting existence with new materials and technology.
A central objective in still life painting was to precisely render an object and its distinct interplay of
shadow, light, color, and texture. As seen in The Fifth Genre, a fascinating aspect of contemporary still
life is how these formal concerns are merged with current interests and developments. What was once a
scientific approach with accurate representation as the goal, still life is now less fixated on realism, more
diverse, and used more liberally as a means of expression and reflection of issues today.