ST. LOUIS — It’s impossible to know when love begins. At best, we are mildly aware of its onset — a subtle brush of the hair, a lick of the lips, a quiet nudge of the hip, a gaze that lasts too long or not long enough. What we do know is that love finds us; we cannot search it out. Spanish poet Federico García Lorcawrote of lunar romance: “How the owl is calling. / Ay, it calls in the branches! / Through the sky goes the moon, / gripping a child’s fingers.” His lyrical words wrap themselves around a young, innocent type of love. Poet Drew Krewer, editor and cofounder of literary mag The Destroyer, writes words that drift through abundant airs, gracing on slick, uncertain surfaces of love, lust, and longing, recalled from memory. “I want to leap, for him to catch, for a balloon party with love. / I want it all, I want some more, I want the roses and the arms” is the closing line of his poem “Age 5 | FLASHDANCE (1983) | 1:25:04–1:29:43.” Both of these poets, and countless others, speak of love in its obtuse forms, perhaps once removed, a longing that is not a memory but rather a hazy moment cut against the sharp form of orderly, chronological time.
Love is so endlessly fascinating that attempting to round it out, wrap it up, and map it completely through a three-part exhibition titled The Progress of Love, which has been taking place concurrently at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, the Menil Collection in Houston, and the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos, Nigeria, seems almost defeatist. The three-city exhibition presents an array of European, American, and African artists exploring the narrative arc of love through personal, political, cultural, historic, technological, and economic lenses. Love is an ideal in its early stages, a journey through the ethereal, and then it ends, scattering ashes of past memories about gray skies. The third part of the show, at the Pulitzer Foundation, focuses on the end of love and its aftermath through works by British-Nigerian artists Zina Saro-Wiwa and Yinka Shonibare, MBE, French artist Sophie Calle, and American-Jamaican-Nigerian artist Temitayo Ogunblyi.
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