DeCordova explores tactility, intimacy, and desire in Screens: Virtual Material


On October 6, 2017, deCordova presents Screens: Virtual Material, which focuses on the increased presence of screens, both digital and tactile, within contemporary art. The exhibition features large-scale works by six leading contemporary artists: Brian Bress, Marta Chilindron, Liza Lou, Matt Saunders, Josh Tonsfeldt, and Penelope Umbrico. From metal fences and folding architecture to television monitors and video projections, screens are the primary artistic medium and conceptual focus in these immersive sculpture, installations, and multimedia artworks.  

“Presented at a time when many of us feel overly saturated by too much ‘screen time,’ this exhibition actually aims for us to step away from our technological devices,” explains Associate Curator Sarah Montross. “The large-scale sculptures, installations, and moving image projections will engage both the body and mind, while hopefully sparking new ways of understanding screens as tactile membranes or luminous thresholds that shape our views on privacy, faith, and even desire.”

The thirteen works on view in the exhibition range from physical and tactile to virtual and digital, often blending the two to create an immersive experience. Whether a solid barrier visitors must walk around or a video projection one can walk through, they explore the different roles screens can play—and the various effects they can have—in our lives.

Screens: Virtual Material includes:

  • Liza Lou, Maximum Security (2007–8): a 23-square-foot sculpture made of chain-link fence—every inch meticulously covered with tiny glass beads. The properties of seduction, separation, and time-consuming labor that are inherent to the sculpture extend to the ways in which screen-based devices are produced and used today.
  • Marta Chilindron, Cube 48 Orange (2014): an accordion-like acrylic sculpture that can be arranged in various configurations, which will snake across the gallery floor. The artist associates the artwork “with a folding screen in the sense that it becomes a temporary barrier, but because its shape can change it can also be a portal as it evolves into a maze.”
  • Matt Saunders, Two Worlds, and a Half (site-specific variation) (2016-17): a multi-screen installation featuring flickering, colorful compositions that spill off the screen and onto the surrounding floor and walls. Saunders, deCordova’s 2015 Rappaport Prize winner, intends for the viewer to notice both the back and front of his screens and installs the work so that one’s body falls into the light of the projection—creating an embodied experience.
  • Penelope Umbrico, Out of Order: Bad Display (100717) (2017): a site-specific arrangement of enlarged images from online ads selling broken televisions, some printed on used LCD television screens. Propped against the gallery wall, the installation appears precarious and temporary, calling attention to the rapid obsolescence of new technology.
  • Brian Bress, NOON NOON (2015): a video featuring costumed characters that touch and draw on the screen, or even cut directly through a surface that separates the viewer and the artist. Using imagery resembling computer screensavers and characters belonging in a children’s television show, Bress shatters the illusion of distinct digital and physical worlds, creating an uncanny experience.
  • Josh Tonsfeldt, Untitled (deCordova 1-5) (2017): collaged arrangements using resin and Hydrostone that feature parts from discarded television screens and monitors—such as light-focusing prism films, liquid crystals, and LED light panels—resulting in almost holographic works. Tonsfeldt dissects and exposes the inner-workings of the television, transforming the materials into something wondrous.

Screens: Virtual Material is organized by Associate Curator Sarah Montross and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue. The exhibition opens to the public on Friday, October 6, 2017, and will be on view through Sunday, March 18, 2018.

Related Programming

Workshop: Stained Glass Screens
Tuesdays, October 10 and 24, 6:30–9 pm
$75 Members, $90 Not-Yet-Members

Inspired by the exhibition Screens: Virtual Material, join artist Emily Bhargava in this two-session workshop where participants will design and complete a screen using stained glass techniques.

Curator-Led Tour: Screens
Thursday, October 19, 12 pm
Free with admission

Join Associate Curator Sarah Montross for an in-depth look at how artists in this exhibition create work using metal fences, folding architecture, television monitors, and video projections in innovative ways that expand our understanding of screens today.

Workshop: SCREENshots—iPhone Photography & Creative Apps
Saturday, October 21, 9 am5 pm with lunch break
$140 Members, $165 Not-Yet-Members

Join photographer John Clarke around deCordova’s art- and nature-filled landscape as he explores the creative possibilities of iPhone photography and various apps, including PhotoToaster, Mextures, and Hipstamatic.

Workshop: Photo Transfer on Clay
Wednesdays, November 1 and 15, 6:30–9 pm
$80 Members, $90 Not-Yet-Members

In this unique workshop inspired by the exhibition Screens: Virtual Material, participants will transfer photographic images on hand-built ceramic forms making them into clay “screens.” Resident ceramic artist Bruce Barry will provide individual guidance with personally-designed projects. All materials are provided and firing is included. You may bring your own photographs or choose from a selection provided. For ages 16+; no ceramic experience necessary.

Artist Talk: Penelope Umbrico
Thursday, November 30, 6:30 pm
Free with admission

Screens artist Penelope Umbrico’s artistic and conceptual process relies on electronic displays as catalyst, subject, and medium. In this lecture, the artist will discuss her projects that explore the life of an image after it is shared on digital platforms like Craigslist, Flickr, and eBay.

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