Hauser & Wirth New York is pleased to present The Flesh of the Earth, a multidisciplinary exhibition curated by Nigerian-American writer and critic Enuma Okoro. Through work by artists Olafur Eliasson, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Jenny Holzer, Rashid Johnson, Haley Mellin, Cassi Namoda, Lorna Simpson, Kiki Smith, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum and Billie Zangewa, the presentation, in the words of Okoro, “encourages us all to consider ways of decentering ourselves from the prevalent anthropocentric narrative, to reimagine a more intimate relationship with the earth and to renew our connection with the life-force energy that surges through all of creation, both human and more-than-human. Our human bodies—one of a diversity of created bodies of the natural world—are the primary language with which we dialogue with the earth. By acknowledging that these varied bodies are always in relationship we reawaken our awareness of the quality of those relationships, considering where we may falter or harm, and also deepen our appreciation and recognition of our interdependence with the more-than-human world.”
The exhibition will also include the poetry of acclaimed author Ama Codjoe, who draws both poignant and striking images with her words, articulating the kind of sensuous and imaginative self-reflection that can stir us to rekindle a necessary intimacy with the more-than-human—again, emphasizing the body as the primary vehicle through which to achieve this.
The Flesh of the Earth implores us to renew our connection to the fuller natural world by highlighting our estrangement from it in the first place. At the heart of the exhibition is Rashid Johnson’s living work, ‘Untitled Stranger’ (2017), which requires the committed relationship from humans to care for it and ensure its sustained life. The immersive sculptural installation invites viewers to circle the work and study the various symbolic objects placed within its stacked, architectural grids—live plants in ceramic pots made by Johnson, carved blocks of shea butter, parachutes and a selection of books. These objects carry deep meaning for the artist; from essence extracted from the shea trees found across central Africa to titles like Albert Camus’ ‘The Stranger’ and ‘The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual’ by Harold Cruse, every item points to themes of alienation and escape, and the wistful quest to reconnect with a feeling of belonging and of familiarity.
Okoro says, “The remedy to estrangement is an intentional and caring rekindling of relationship. We must return to thinking of the earth as also imbued with life-force energy as we are, with an aliveness whose health and engagement is essential to our collective well-being. The more-than-human world holds patterns of intimacy that we can learn from and participate in, but which require us to acknowledge and to draw closer to the rest of nature’s own inherent eroticism. It is only in recognizing and honoring the aliveness and sacrality of this world that we can reimagine a new and sustainable kinship.” Through their sensorial formal qualities and symbolic resonance, the works on view here offer glimpses of what could be beyond our quotidian humanmade realm, urging us to recognize our collective dislocation and distance from the more-than-human, and to open ourselves to a renewed relationship with the rest of the natural world.
In Okoro’s words, “We are unwholly ourselves when we mark stark boundaries between our bodies and that of other non-human bodies of nature. To speak of nature as something that exists apart from us or something merely ‘outside’ is to deny our own creatureliness and our humus-ness. We are part of the environment. We too are of the soil and the elements. Born from the water of the womb, at death we recycle back to the humus of the earth, where living microbes already exist in thriving interrelated communities, and the bodies of plants and animals also return to provide nourishment. There is so much transformative and necessary relational engagement between our beginnings and endings to which we have to return, and in some instances heal.”
On Saturday February 3, at 4pm, Hauser & Wirth will host a public program at its 18th Street gallery featuring readings of Ama Codjoe’s poetry by poet Maya Marshall, prose readings by Enuma Okoro and a screening of Adama Delphine Fawundu’s film ‘Cosmic Echoes’ (2023) accompanied by a special musical performance by the artist’s son, Che Buford. More details about the event, as well as registration information, will be available at hauserwirth.com.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.