In the Galleries - The Progress of Love CLOSES April 21 at the Pulitzer

Stills from Zina Saro-Wiwa’s Sarogua Mourning, 2011, at the Pulitzer.
Stills from Zina Saro-Wiwa’s Sarogua Mourning, 2011, at the Pulitzer. © Zina Saro-Wiwa

In the Galleries - The Progress of Love CLOSES April 21 at the Pulitzer

Tracking the elusive arc of love from aspirational idealism to all-too-real dissolution, this ambitious three-venue exhibition (Lagos, Nigeria; Houston, Texas; and St. Louis) engages contemporary artists across cultures to investigate its paradoxically universal and singular subject. For the Pulitzer's iteration, new director Kristina Van Dyke has curated a four-person show that probes love's loss, including work by the French artist Sophie Calle; Nigerian-born, U.S.-based Zina Saro-Wiwa; British-Nigerian Yinka Shonibare; and American-Jamaican-Nigerian Temitayo Ogunbiyi. Film and photographic media dominate, in a turn uncharacteristic for this space; the visitor is greeted by a pile of TV monitors variously upright, sideways and overturned, displaying Nollywood actresses' faces as they smile, laugh, then convulsively weep. Deeper into the space, the viewer is confronted with more figurative photographs and videos, wherein a range of professional women (a sharpshooter, a therapist, a mime, a lawyer, a copy editor) subject a breakup letter to every form of evisceration. The venue's cube gallery is devoted to a montage film of these letter performances while the square gallery directly below it features an opera singer performing a mournful aria from Verdi's La Traviata in a 17th-century mansion. Following the long hallway adjacent to this space to the Pulitzer's terminus, a vending machine sells booklets of prewritten text messages one can deploy on the occasion of a breakup, an argument, a sudden rush of love and any other nuance of ardor (including ones you never realized existed). It's a complex show covering a vast global and conceptual range, but its simple and deeply empathetic core — the great everlasting occasion of love's loss — allows such wide ground to elegantly and poignantly converge. Through April 20 at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 3716 Washington Boulevard; 314-754-1850 or www.pulitzerarts.org. Hours: noon-5 p.m. Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.

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