The FLAG Art Foundation presents and I will wear you in my heart of heart, a group exhibition of contemporary paintings and textiles on view May 1-August 13, 2021, on it’s 9th floor. Centering on a gesture of care, the exhibition explores the myriad ways in which 35 artists evoke tenderness through depictions of lovers and friends, familial exchanges, moments of solitude, and even a cowboy and his pastel pink unicorn. Hear of heart includes recent and new works created for the exhibition that employ the cross-generational resurgence in figuration as a mode of exploring identity, cultural histories, and personal experiences. Artists include:

Derrick Adams
Gareth Cadwallader
Jordan Casteel
Will Cotton
Ann Craven
Somaya Critchlow
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Anthony Cudahy
John Currin
Cynthia Daignault
TM Davy
Peter Doig
Carroll Dunham
Louis Fratino
Jay Lynn Gomez
Jenna Gribbon
Caleb Hahne
Sally J. Han
Hilary Harkness
Reggie Burrows Hodges
Ernst Yohji Jaeger
Sanya Kantarovsky
Arghavan Khosravi
Danielle McKinney
GaHee Park
Nicolas Party
Cheryl Pope
Tajh Rust
Joan Semmel
Alessandro Teoldi
Honor Titus
Salman Toor
Anna Weyant
Lisa Yuskavage
Billie Zangewa

Heart of heart nods to a line from (and spoken by) Hamlet1 and addresses that which we hold closest, be it a relationship, a feeling, one’s own well-being, an object, or a dream. Illustratively, the “heart of heart” is akin to a castle’s keep, an innermost stronghold and safeguard from the outside world. Reggie Burrows Hodges and Jordan Casteel depict large-scale scenes of shared intimacy between parents and children. TM Davy and Jenna Gribbon position viewers as voyeurs, granted fleeting access to a loving gesture between friends and/or lovers. Reflective moments are found in paintings by Peter Doig (a lone figure stands outside the wall of Lapeyrouse Cemetery in Port of Spain, Trinidad), Danielle McKinney (a woman sits in prayer sits under a crucifix and portrait of the Virgin Mary), and Ernst Yohji Jaeger (a spider web is suspended—or being spun—between the fingers of a young man). Joan Semmel’s frank depiction of her aging body and Jay Lynn Gomez’s painting of a polaroid picture of her younger self speak to vulnerability and transformation. Made of materials that typically dress and wrap the body, textiles by Cheryl Pope (needle-punched wool roving on cashmere), Alessandro Teoldi (reconstituted airline blankets), and Billie Zangewa (hand-stitched and collaged silk) connote touch, comfort, and connectivity—intrinsic elements of tenderness.

With the understanding that the concept of tenderness is both elastic and individual, the exhibition opens with three artworks: Tajh Rust’s If I had a dream, 2021; Anthony Cudahy’s Us (with Jacob’s Ladder, Apocalypse Tree, Lion), 2020; and Lisa Yuskavage’s Mutualism, 2006. Rust’s jewel-toned canvas centers on two sleeping figures: a woman on an emerald couch and a man on a sapphire carpet studded with butterflies. While the figures’ relationship is opaque—are the lovers, siblings, or just friends—their hands, which almost touch, create an unmistakable intimacy. Cudahy paints himself and his husband Ian in a life-size towering embrace; connected through a spiral of each other’s hands, the couple is woven into a patchwork of symbols and imagery borrowed from the medieval Bayeux and Apocalypse Tapestries, as well as references to Helen Frankenthaler’s explosive Jacob’s Ladder2 1957. By contrast, Yuskavage’s small-scale oil painting features two nymph-like female figures piggybacking in a Candyland-like landscape—both are naked but for a single black Mary Jane shoe. Yuskavage’s intertwined characters are sexual and sexualized, playful, and possibly parasitic. Partially obscured by branches and greenery, the intentions on their flushed-faces are impossible to discern.

Continuing through two adjoining galleries, over 30 artworks of varied subject matters and formal affinities are installed to spark dialogues that are, by turns, funny, heartbreaking, erotic, nostalgic, empathetic, etc. Cumulatively, the works in heart of heart  illustrate the simple beauty of everyday moments, intimacy, and connection.

1 “[…]Give me that man / That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him /  In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart, / As I do thee.” (Hamlet 3.2.65-67); Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. George Richard Hibbard. Oxford University Press, 2008. Google Books.
2 The title of this work refers to the biblical character Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah. As described in the Book of Genesis, Jacob had a dream in which he saw a ladder reaching toward heaven. Speaking about this work, Frankenthaler said, “The picture developed (bit by bit while I was working on it) into shapes symbolic of an exuberant figure and ladder, therefore Jacob’s Ladder.”