July 1, 2009–February 21, 2010

Contemporary Outlook

Seeing Songs

Technology has rendered music more accessible and pervasive than ever before. MP3 players are omnipresent; every cell phone can make a statement about the owner's musical taste. Music is everywhere, and in the process has become both more public and more private. We all travel through life with our own soundtrack—sometimes others can hear it; sometimes it's ours alone.

Visual artists, however, have been inspired by music throughout history. They have responded by transforming something that is arguably intangible, into visual, physical form. "Seeing Songs" presents an eclectic mix of work—mainly from the Museum's collections—that draws on music as inspiration, focusing on abstract as well as representational art and connections to musical forms as varied as classical, jazz, and pop. From lyrical works on paper by Wassily Kandinsky and a painting by Stuart Davis that depicts music as gesture and improvisation, to recent videos by Gillian Wearing and Candice Breitz that explore the relationship between pop stars and their fans, this exhibition brings together an international group of artists in whose work we see songs.

Video of July 9, 2009, MFA Karaoke Party

  • Henry and Lois Foster Gallery (Gallery 158)