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Art & Art History

The Mask of Prosperity

Friday, May 10, 2024–Saturday, August 03, 2024
Gallery 400
400 South Peoria Street, Chicago, IL 60607

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Sonya Clark, cameron clayborn, Eli Greene, S*an D. Henry-Smith, Caroline Kent and Nate Young, Bouchra Khalili, Katherine Simóne Reynolds, Gabrielle Octavia Rucker, Carmen Winant

The Mask of Prosperity is a group exhibition that takes shape around the role inheritance has across multiple dimensions of our lives. Inheritance is commonly understood as a will, a promise of ownership that ensures the passing down and accumulation of property and capital from one generation to the next. For many, this topic strikes a personal chord, demanding reflection on one’s relationships with ancestors and what we would like to endow our descendants with. This exhibition expands on this strand of thinking and is posed as an inquiry that probes the tensions between which legacies we choose to acquire, hold on to, or reject across culture and personal life. 

Newly commissioned contributions by Caroline Kent and Nate Young, Eli Greene, Katherine Simóne Reynolds, Gabrielle Octavia Rucker, and S*an D. Henry-Smith emerged from conversations with some of these artists over the past two years. Artists and spouses Caroline Kent and Nate Young present a collaborative installation that holds a legacy of their dedication to an uncompromising work ethic embedded in their practices. Katherine Simóne Reynolds meditates on her parents’ marriage, their divorce, her father’s death, and her inheritance through opaque and transparent display approaches that reveal the existence of a predatory industry that preys on and profits off estate heirs.

Eli Greene’s installation of light boxes offers a resting place for family photographs, drawings, and found objects, giving them new purposes that never lose connections to their origins. Gabrielle Octavia Rucker’s asemic writing—an abstract and intuitive calligraphic writing form—and its translation into the Latin alphabet examines the loss of one’s language and sense of home due to systemic poverty.

A central concern in the exhibition is, how do we come into possession of material and intangible things and what are their lasting impressions on determining our sense of self? The featured artists present richly varied reflections interrogating how legacies linked to language, property, social movement, and moral principles intensify to possibly build a prosperous life. The scenes in life collected and animated in The Mask of Prosperity capture intimate pursuits to parse out unfinished business with loss, grief, past, present, and future. These scenes, born from the artists’ keen observation of their kinship structures, political environments, and private lives, are rendered into a mirror in which we can also recognize inheritance’s meaning and value in our lives.