Andrew Yang's current exhibit at MCA Chicago is both beautiful and thought-provoking. It is one of my favorite kinds of contemporary art--both intellectually stimulating and aesthetically pleasing. Yang has a background in science as well as art and holds positions at both the Field Museum of Natural History and the School of the Art Institute, His work combines these dual interests, which many would find mutually exclusive, in explorations of cosmology and natural history that remind us that human beings and our culture are also part of the universe studied by scientists, whether we're studying (for example) chemistry, geology, or astronomy.
In one piece, Stella's Stoichiometry (all things being equal, 6 lbs 3 oz.) (2012), Yang beautifully arranges substances representing the chemical composition of his newborn daughter in glass receptacles. In another, A beach (for Carl Sagan), Yang represents the Milky Way with a scale model made of piles of sand--seven tons of sand; one grain for every star (assuming 100 billion stars, a low-end estimate).
Yang's work tends to juxtapose items that we generally don't think of together (like lava flows and human placentas, as in placenta/lava (2011), so we notice similarities we might never have looked for, and wonder about their coincidence. While we have likely studied geology and biology separately in school, some unspoken relationship between the two seems apparent here.
Similarly, in the installation the Way within (2016), Yang has arranged a large quantity of collected stones, shells, fossils, and manmade objects. Confronted with this miscellany, we wonder about the relationships between these objects--why they belong together, or don't.
The exhibit opened yesterday and closes 31 December. I look forward to returning frequently.