Prisoner of Love

About the exhibition

Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, by acclaimed artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa, is a multilayered seven-minute montage about the experience of living in the United States. 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 a soaring gospel-inspired anthem.

Centered around this filmic journey, the exhibition features a rotating body of work from the MCA’s collection inspired by the titular themes in Bruce Nauman’s iconic neon Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain. The work’s title establishes the themes of three rotating groups of artwork in the exhibition’s final gallery: life and death, love and hate, and pleasure and pain. Powerful, moving works by artists such as Deana Lawson, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Carrie Mae Weems alternate throughout the run of the show.

The exhibition is curated by Naomi Beckwith, Manilow Senior Curator. It is presented in the Sylvia Neil and Daniel Fischel Galleries on the museum’s second floor.


Transcripts

Arthur Jafa
Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, 2016 Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Anonymous gift to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2017.34 Images courtesy Arthur Jafa and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York/Rome

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.

Generous support is provided by Anne L. Kaplan, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Cheryl Mayberry McKissack and Eric McKissack, and Douglas and Yumi Ross.

Installation Images

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019. Work shown: 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

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019. Work shown: 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. © 2016 Arthur Jafa.

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Installation view, Prisoner of Love, MCA Chicago. January 26 – October 27, 2019

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago