Sand: Memory, Meaning, and Metaphor considers one of earth's most fundamental elements and takes a fascinating look into the myriad ways in which artists have explored sand's physical and metaphysical properties.
Encompassing an extraordinary range of art, from 20th-century masters to cutting-edge artists of today, the exhibition traces several thematic threads. In a number of works, sand becomes a metaphor for memory—from Joseph Cornell's evocative Sand Box (1942) to the elegiac 1993 photographs of footprints on a beach by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Other works operate as potent political, social, or psychological statements, such as Untitled (From the Silueta Series), 1976, by Ana Mendieta, in which the artist documented the gradual effacement of her body's outline in the sand, referencing her own cultural displacement.
Many artists have romanced the shoreline—that "combination of sun, sea, sand and sex," in the words of eminent Picasso biographer John Richardson—-that so inspired the great Spanish painter and Sand: Memory, Meaning and Metaphor will include a 1922 Picasso of classical bathers at the beach. A different take is photographer Richard Misrach's recent On the Beach series, informed by the artist's own response to the events of September 11, in which the human figure, seen from far above, is dwarfed by the sand and the sea.
Artists have been acutely attuned to sand's properties to function as both macrocosm and microcosm, as in Jochem Hendricks's 10,258,743 Grains of Sand (2003–2005), the number of grains in a crystalline glass sphere, counted out by the artist and the minimum-wage workers he employs to assist him. And finally, the exhibition will bring together a group of works by artists who have used sand in their medium, channeling this element's alchemical properties—from Man Ray's drawing and assemblage on sandpaper, l'Etoile de Verre, to Jackson Pollock's powerful oil and sand Bird (1941).