current exhibition

Elisabeth Kley: Cymodocea

The Currier announces a new collaboration with
New York-based artist Elisabeth Kley for its Welcome Gallery

On view May 16 through August 18, 2024

Installation view of Elisabeth Kley’s Cymodocea at the Currier Museum. Photo by Morgan Karanasios.

As part of a series of exhibitions and commissions looking at the relationship between fine art and crafts conceived for its Welcome Gallery, the Currier Museum of Art is delighted to announce a new collaboration with New York-based artist Elisabeth Kley (b. 1956).

The Welcome Gallery, as the name suggests, is the entry point to the Currier Museum. It is not only the main entrance into the original 1929 building – the beating heart of the museum – but also acts as an interface between the crafts section and the fine arts collection. Over the last year, several exhibitions in the Welcome Gallery have explored the increasingly grey areas between disciplines, and challenged the conventional hierarchical order of low and high art. Ugandan artist Sanaa Gateja, for example, recently proved that recycled paper can be elevated to the domain of art, thanks to his elaborate beadwork. And the work of illustrator and author Tomie dePaola reminded us that picture books are “a small door to the enormous world of the visual arts, and they’re often the first art a young person sees.”

Elisabeth Kley’s new installation, titled Cymodocea – a sea grass that lives in warm water that is increasingly diffused due to global warming – combines her signature ceramic sculptures with wall paintings, effectively creating an environment rich with references that span classical times to the history of modernism. This striking black-and-white installation will be interspersed with a selection of Kley’s bold works on paper, giving further insight into how the artist consistently explored the history of decoration and patterns throughout her career.

Reminiscent of the Pattern and Decoration movement (also known as P&D) – recently acknowledged in the Currier’s own collection via the acquisition of Prairie Song (1980) by Mary Grigoriadis – Kley’s work utilizes geometric and abstracted forms that reference a multitude of cultures and civilizations, from ancient Egypt to the present. In a 1975 feature for Artforum, art critic and theorist Amy Goldin noted how radical it could be for an artist to focus on decoration and ornament, stating: “The enjoyment of patterns and grids, so often linked to religion, magic, and states of being not-quite-here, requires an indifference to self-assertion uncongenial to most Westerners.”

Similarly, the work of Elisabeth Kley does not make any categorical statement. She does not push an obvious agenda, nor does the work insist on a recognizable narrative. Rather, she plays with the evocative power of ornament and the free associations that occur in our minds when we look at certain designs and patterns. It is thanks to these mental linkages that the Currier’s Welcome Gallery becomes a transtemporal temple; a holy space for contemplation and a compendium of diverse styles and designs. 

In 2019, Kley stated: “I spend hours in museums obsessively photographing anything I might use. […] I’ve found inspiration in sources including Coptic and Islamic textiles, Fortuny and Wiener Werkstätte design and South Pacific tapa cloth. Right now, I’m concentrating on Greece and Rome, mixed in with ancient Egypt.” Much of these influences will be incorporated into her installation at the Currier.

The exhibition will be on view May 16 through August 18, 2024 and is generously supported by Outer Space Arts in Concord, NH. Elisabeth Kley is represented by CANADA (NYC).

past exhibitions

Archived material on past exhibitions can be explored further here, and recent past exhibition catalogues are available through the museum shop.

artist in residence

Our Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program invites artists to live and work at the museum. While in residence, artists consider the collection and community, and refresh our perspectives on the role of the museum. The program is central to the Currier Museum’s mission of connecting our audiences with art and creative thinking, whether of the past or the future. We hope to learn from our visiting artists – and be surprised by their perspectives.

Artists working in all media participate in the AIR program, which has three main components: 1) an open call to support emerging artists making socially engaged art; 2) an invitational through which artists are selected to develop special projects, commissions, or exhibitions; and 3) artist-led, community-centered public art projects in the city of Nashua, NH.


Open Call for Artist in Residence Applications

Our annual open call is currently live from October 1 – December 1, 2022. Artists who share the museum’s goal of positively impacting communities through the transformative power of art are encouraged to apply to this residency.

Learn More