Prisoner of Love

  • The words "DEATH," "LOVE," "HATE," "PLEASURE," "PAIN," and "LIFE" appear in illuminated neon, organized in a circle against a black background. In order, their colors are orange, purple, pink, green, and blue.
  • A dark-skinned woman with her hair and makeup done wears a sleeveless wedding dress with a long train, held by another person behind her. She holds up the dress and looks down toward the path ahead of her.
  • What appears to be a film still of a police or SWAT van on a street at night is watermarked with a Getty Images logo. People are walking on the street and emptying out the back of the van.
  • In a black-and-white triptych, the silhouette of a woman is visible holding a cigarette and looking out a doorway. In the second photo, a man appears at the door, and in the third, the silhouetted man and woman embrace.
  • In this photo, a young, dark-skinned man holds a very young baby to his chest in what appears to be the living room of a home.
  • A detailed painting shows the implied forms of various human figures depicted in shades of brown and dark blue, with accents of green, yellow, maroon, and white.
The words "DEATH," "LOVE," "HATE," "PLEASURE," "PAIN," and "LIFE" appear in illuminated neon, organized in a circle against a black background. In order, their colors are orange, purple, pink, green, and blue.
Bruce Nauman, Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain, 1983. Neon; diameter: 70 7/8 in. (180 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gerald S. Elliott Collection, 1995.74. © 2018 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
A dark-skinned woman with her hair and makeup done wears a sleeveless wedding dress with a long train, held by another person behind her. She holds up the dress and looks down toward the path ahead of her.
Arthur Jafa, Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, 2016. Video (color, sound); 7 minutes, 25 seconds. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, anonymous gift to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2017.34. Image courtesy of Arthur Jafa and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome.
What appears to be a film still of a police or SWAT van on a street at night is watermarked with a Getty Images logo. People are walking on the street and emptying out the back of the van.
Arthur Jafa, Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, 2016. Video (color, sound); 7 minutes, 25 seconds. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, anonymous gift to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2017.34. Image courtesy of Arthur Jafa and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome.
Kerry James Marshall, Souvenir I, 1997. Acrylic and glitter on canvas banner; 108 × 157 in. (274.3 × 398.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Bernice and Kenneth Newberger Fund, 1997.73. © 1997 Kerry James Marshall. Photo: Joe Ziolkowski, © MCA Chicago.
In a black-and-white triptych, the silhouette of a woman is visible holding a cigarette and looking out a doorway. In the second photo, a man appears at the door, and in the third, the silhouetted man and woman embrace.
Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Black Love), 1992. Silver prints; three parts, each framed: 28 5/16 × 28 5/16 in. (71.9 × 71.9 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Jack and Sandra Guthman, 2016.57.a–c. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
In this photo, a young, dark-skinned man holds a very young baby to his chest in what appears to be the living room of a home.
Deana Lawson, Sons of Cush, 2016. Ink-jet print mounted on Sintra; framed: 44 × 55 ¼ in. Courtesy of the artist and Rhona Hoffman Gallery.
Glenn Ligon, Untitled (Study #1 for Prisoner of Love), 1992. Oil and gesso on canvas; 30 ½ × 20 in. (77.5 × 50.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Sandra P. and Jack Guthman, 2000.11. © Glenn Ligon 1992/Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Photo © MCA Chicago.
A detailed painting shows the implied forms of various human figures depicted in shades of brown and dark blue, with accents of green, yellow, maroon, and white.
Michael Armitage, The Flaying of Marsyas, 2017. Oil on Lubugo bark cloth; 92 ½ × 96 7/8 × 1 9/16 in. (235 × 246 × 4 cm). © Michael Armitage. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby).

About the exhibition

Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, by acclaimed artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa, is a multilayered seven-minute montage of the black experience in America. The video tells a story of trauma and transcendence in a flurry of footage—from historic speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama, to clips of cultural icons Beyoncé and Notorious B.I.G., to flashes of concerts, home movies, news footage, music videos, and sports matches—all set to the soaring gospel tones of Kanye West's Ultralight Beam. Centered around this filmic journey, the exhibition features a rotating body of work from the MCA's collection that complements Jafa's video and captures some of the same intense emotions about life in America today. Powerful, moving works by artists such as Deana Lawson, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Marilyn Minter, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Carrie Mae Weems alternate throughout the run of the show, alongside the mainstay of Bruce Nauman’s iconic Life, Death, Hate, Pleasure, Pain.

The exhibition is curated by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator. It is presented in the Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel Galleries on the museum's second floor.

Funding

Lead support for Prisoner of Love is provided by The Pritzker Traubert Collection Exhibition Fund.

Major support is provided by Cari and Michael J. Sacks.