Nasher curators introduce an Alicja Kwade sculpture, both celestial and grounded, showing with works from our permanent collection this fall. By Dr. Leigh Arnold and Jed Morse
Alicja Kwade investigates concepts of time, space, particle physics, and the limitations of knowledge in a diverse practice that manifests as sculptural objects, video, and photography. Les Sièges des Mondes comprises eight common chairs cast in bronze intersected at different elevations by spheres of various natural stones. The French title translates to “seats of the worlds,” while informal titles for each chair and sphere pairing refer to the eight planets of our solar system (Earth, Venus, Mars, etc.), suggesting a correlation between celestial and corporeal bodies.
This elision of planets and domestic furniture further emphasizes the notion that we all consist of the same atomic particles—from the massive planets, moons, and stars floating in space, down to the chairs that humans occupy on Earth. Kwade elaborated on these ideas in her 2017 short essay for Art in America, writing, “At present, by my estimation, I myself am a constellation of 5.5 x 1027 ancient atoms (as I am thirty-eight years old) with lots of electrons that are moving at almost five million miles per hour.”
To complement temporary exhibitions at the Nasher, a group of works from the permanent collection is selected and shown in the adjacent gallery under the exhibition series title, Foundations. This September Les Sièges des Mondes is on view for the first time, on long-term loan, installed among those permanent collection sculptures chosen for their dialogue with Groundswell: Women of Land Art (September 23, 2023 – January 7, 2024). Kwade’s interest in astronomy as a means of understanding our place in the universe aligns with that of many Land artists, including those participating in Groundswell, such as Lita Albuquerque, Nancy Holt, and Michelle Stuart, who each created works throughout their respective careers that endeavored to bring the contents of the sky down to the terrestrial plane.