‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’ and Other Storiesas told by Jennifer Angus
October 12, 2019 through January 5, 2020
A neo-Victorian, a creator of unexpected experiences, and a visionary artist who twists the familiar into the unsettling, Jennifer Angus (b. 1961) challenges our perceptions and expectations by working in an unusual medium: dried, exotic insects. Her site-specific installations often incorporate large, brilliantly-colored insects into elaborate patterns inspired by Victorian wallpaper and 19th-century book illustration – always to dramatic and startlingly beautiful effect.
When encountering her work, our attraction to color and the pleasing repetition of patterns often conflicts with the visceral repulsion and anxiety we may experience in being in the presence of real insects by the thousands. This tension challenges our notions of beauty and our relationship with the insect world on which human life depends. Angus’s work also opens up new lines of inquiry about what we value and our place in the world.
Inspired by a painting in the MFA’s collection, Angus’s project will use Aesop’s fable The Grasshopper and the Ant as its starting point. The ancient Greek story (5th century B.C.) has traditionally pointed to the virtue of the industrious ant over the seemingly profligate grasshopper, who wiled away the summer making music. How society values the contributions of musicians (and by extension, artists) is just one theme in this special exhibition that turns many preconceived notions and perceptions on end.
This MFA-commissioned project will transform all Hazel Hough Wing galleries, and will be Angus’ largest installation of her 20-plus year career. As a site-specific installation, it will not travel. It is an extraordinary opportunity to experience a monumental, immersive, and fascinating work by one of the most important installation artists working in contemporary art today.