Time’s Relentless Melt, ten artists’ ruminations on the complex nature of time opens at the Princeton University Art Museum

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Imperial, Montreal, 1995. Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York © Hiroshi Sugimoto / Courtesy of Hiroshi SugimotoPRINCETON, N.J. — The ways we grapple with time—its use as a measuring tool for our lives, its nature as both intangible and tangible, and its unceasing march forward—are the subject of the exhibition Time’s Relentless Melt at the Princeton University Art Museum. Curated by Katherine Bussard, the Museum’s Peter Bunnell Curator of Photography, the exhibition will be on view August 20 through November 6, 2022, at Art on Hulfish, the Museum’s photo-forward gallery in downtown Princeton. 

Deriving its title from Susan Sontag’s observation that “All photographs testify to time’s relentless melt” (On Photography, 1977), the exhibition explores ideas and experiences around temporality, disruption, and delay. Featuring works created both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic—when people globally experienced time as stalled and disrupted—the exhibition speaks to the fluidity of time and how our perceptions shift both collectively and as individuals. 

Works range from the scientific to the political, including Andy Goldsworthy’s Scotland Hedge crawl / dawn / frost / cold hands / Sinderby, England / 4 March 2014, one of his seminal performances with nature, in which the labor of his body’s movements is juxtaposed with the peaceful silence of the countryside; Zorawar Sidhu and Rob Swainston’s July 18, 2021, a woodblock print based on a widely circulated news photograph of the social distancing circles at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Williamsburg Park, Brooklyn; and Katie Paterson’s Timepieces (Solar System), in which time’s abstract nature is depicted in a series of clocks recording the time on the eight planets in our solar system and on the Earth’s moon; on Mercury, for example, one day’s duration is 4,223 hours. The work reflects the immense differences in axial rotation between celestial bodies and reminds us that Earth is but one part of a solar system that is itself a part of a vast cosmos. Together, these works explore how time is recorded and remembered and invite viewers to consider the tension between ephemerality and permanence.

“Gathering these works together creates a space in which we can pause and consider the ways in which we mark time, both sentimentally and critically,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “Whether poetic, elegiac, or visceral, seen together they invite us to think more deeply about a construct so fundamental that we may take it for granted.”

For instance, in his photographic series Birmingham Project, Dawoud Bey uses the diptych format, a device that often purposefully conjures time by pairing before and after moments. The series is a response to the 1963 white supremacist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Bey juxtaposes a photograph of a resident of Birmingham at the age of a child murdered that day with a resident who is forty-nine years older—the age that child would have been had they survived—to show the aging process and allude to its violent disruption. As the artist has reflected, “the past doesn’t stay in the past.”

Other artists featured in the exhibition include Alejandro Cesarco, Rich Frishman, Chris McCaw, Alison Rossiter, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, along with collaborators Peter Fischli and David Weiss. 

The public is invited to an open house of the exhibition on Saturday, September 10, from 1 to 4 p.m. hosted by the exhibition’s curator and the Museum’s director. Additionally, Art Museum members are invited to a members-only open house with refreshments on Wednesday, September 20, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. On Thursday, October 27 at 5:30 p.m., artist Alison Rossiter will join Curator Katherine Bussard for a conversation about Rossiter’s work and its relationship to the themes of the exhibition. 

About Art on Hulfish

Art on Hulfish showcases a roster of exhibitions led by photography and time-based media that consider issues of profound impact on twenty-first-century life. Located at 11 Hulfish Street in downtown Princeton, it encompasses some 5,500 square feet of space for exhibitions and public programming, ranging from drop-in activities to scheduled work with artists. Admission is free. Launched in December 2021, the gallery is presenting four exhibitions each year through late 2024, during the time when the Museum’s new facility designed by Sir David Adjaye is under construction. 

Art on Hulfish is made possible by the leadership support of Annette Merle-Smith and by Princeton University. Generous support is also provided by John Diekman, Class of 1965, and Susan Diekman; William S. Fisher, Class of 1979, and Sakurako Fisher; J. Bryan King, Class of 1993; Christopher E. Olofson, Class of 1992; Barbara and Gerald Essig; Jim and Valerie McKinney; Nancy A. Nasher, Class of 1976, and David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976; H. Vincent Poor, Graduate Class of 1977; Tom Tuttle, Class of 1988, and Mila Tuttle; the Curtis W. McGraw Foundation; Palmer Square Management; and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional supporters include the Humanities Council, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Department of English, the Center for Collaborative History, the Gender + Sexuality Resource Center, the Graduate School and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Princeton.

About the Princeton University Art Museum

With a collecting history that extends back to 1755, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include more than 113,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe. Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world.

The main Museum building is currently closed for the construction of a bold and welcoming new building, designed in partnership with Sir David Adjaye and slated to open in late 2024. 

Art on Hulfish, located at 11 Hulfish Street in Palmer Square in downtown Princeton, is open daily. Admission is free.

Art@Bainbridge, located at 158 Nassau Street, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Please visit the Museum’s website for digital access to the collections, a diverse portfolio of programs, and updates on opportunities to visit in person.

The Museum Store in Palmer Square, located at 56 Nassau Street in downtown Princeton, is open daily, or shop online at princetonmuseumstore.org.

More information: artmuseum.princeton.edu

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Media Contacts:

Princeton University Art Museum
Gabrielle Langholtz

María Huiza
917.355.5286 or maria.huiza@berlinrosen.com