A Review of the 58th Carnegie International
Chances are, if you have been on social media within the past couple of months, you have seen at least one image of the Carnegie Museum of Art’s new exhibition, whether it be the giant gold pillars of balloons crowded within the Hall of Sculpture, the gigantic meat grinder, or a tree with legal bodily autonomy. These pieces, along with hundreds of others, are what make up the 58th Carnegie International.
The Carnegie International was established in 1896 and, according to the CMOA’s website, “is the longest-running North American exhibition of international art.” The show happens every three to four years and invites artists from all over the globe to participate. This year’s show, curated by Sohrab Mohebbi, focuses on the United States' geo-political impact on other countries. The show, entitled “Is it morning for you yet?”, includes several self-contained segments within the framework of the show itself, including but not limited to: a retrospective of the Indonesian artist Kustiyah, a small collection of works created or owned by Iranian artist Fereydoun Ave, and Refractions, a large part of the show that addresses various international political struggles and how America intervened.
One of the biggest strengths of the show is how well the pieces that are displayed close together dialectically fit and allow for previously unconsidered connections to be explored by the viewer. The segmenting adds to this strength, and allows visitors to digest the show in pieces, rather than all at once. I will say, it is very easy to get overwhelmed when viewing this show if taken in all at once—not only because of its size and scope, but also because of its subject matter.
Take the example of the pillar of balloons, created by Banu Cennetoğlu, in the Hall of Sculpture. Though it looks as if the balloons should be proclaiming a student’s graduation or maybe someone's sweet sixteen, each pillar instead spells out one of the first ten articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was agreed upon by the United Nations in 1948. Though the pillars started the show tall and intense, the balloons have been slowly deflating throughout the duration of International. This deflation, of course, is an attempt to mirror the UN’s (or America’s) waning attention given to the tenets of the Declaration. As if to further highlight this point, the walls of the Hall of Sculpture are beautifully painted by Vietnam-born artist Thu Van Tran in soft, pastel hues; however, upon further inspection, one will realize that they are the exact colors of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. In addition, the Hall of Sculpture also holds Hiromi Tsuchida’s “Hiroshima Trilogy” photos, which document personal items found after the 1945 bombing and if the original owners were ever found (whether dead or alive).
Though what I’ve described makes up a very small portion of the show, I think it is a great snapshot of “Is it morning for you yet?”; visually striking, part art show and part historically driven interrogation of international relations, something worth witnessing in person (though you will not leave the museum happily skipping back towards campus). The wall text for the exhibition celebrates a now (semi) post-pandemic world, but the International seems to carry the heaviness of the political turmoil and alienation that COVID-19 has brought to the forefront of everyone’s minds. Is this an inevitable outcome of the world-changing events that we have experienced over the past three years, or simply an over-politicized show focused on the negatives in an attempt to stay topical? I think it is up to each viewer to visit the exhibition, hopefully even several times over, and deeply consider everything they experience before coming to their own conclusion. The Carnegie International is open from now until April 2, 2023, and all Carnegie Mellon students have free access to the museum and its exhibitions.