The newest exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center is a must-see. In fact, I told 5 different people, a couple of them strangers, within the first hour of leaving this impressive show that they had to see it. Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection opened Saturday, January 28th and is a one-of-a-kind exhibition filled with imagery from artists and cultures from around the world whose work explores mortality.
Morbid, you wonder? Well, yes… but in a good way. Divided into two major sections, the first focuses primarily on the “Kunstkammer of Death” – or a modern twist on the traditional cabinets of curiosities. I was instantly blown away by the initial abundance of skull and skeletal imagery; the exhibit just beckons you inward. Day of the Dead objects are juxtaposed with European Realism. Photographs, ethnographic material, even anatomical renderings, make an appearance in this room. Their common theme is quite clear — to beautify and make accessible the inevitable finality of all living organisms… death.
The second major section is referred to as the “War Room.” Although heavier in its message, the imagery becomes almost easier to handle after the overall exposure and ‘shock’ of the first room. You are able to better understand the beauty of the image and experience the raw emotion it evokes. The room begins with five great print series depicting war through the centuries… appropriately entitled “The Horrors of War.” You next encounter the faceless works by Guerra de la Paz which continue to drive the point home that war affects everyone, not just those we know but those we don’t know as well. The viewer is reminded that war is not just on a battlefield but it overflows into the surrounding communities and takes countless victims.
So why is it a must-see? It is the first exhibition I have seen that gives you a comfortable environment to explore a topic people don’t like to talk about. So I encourage you to take a moment and investigate death more. You might be surprised by some of the answers these artists give you.
Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection is on display until July 8, 2012 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Curated by Lucas Cowan and Debra Purden, the exhibit showcases more than 1,000 pieces from the personal collection of Richard Harris, a resident of Riverwoods, Illinois. For more information on this show, please visit www.ChicagoCulturalCenter.org.