Joseph Grigely is an artist and writer living in Chicago whose work addresses questions about the materialization of language and communication, and the ways conversations might be represented in the absence of speech. A collector of inscribed words, documents, and related artifacts, Grigely’s ongoing work, collectively titled “Conversations with the Hearing,” is concerned with archives, archival practices, and how archives might be activated with both formal and narrative meaning. Joseph Grigely was born and raised in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where at the age of ten he fell down a hill and became completely deaf. At this point, he began a journey that he describes as “watching the world with the sound turned off,” paying close attention to language, communication, and the vagaries of human interaction.
In 2002, Joseph Grigely was included in a show curated by Ralf Biel at the Kunstmuseum Bern. The artist utilized the permanent collection and the museum itself to create an installation that focused on works that represented sound in alternative, visual ways. As part of the project, the artist wrote the essay, “23 footnotes on sound in Kunstmuseum Bern.” Below is footnote #13:
“Canaletto painted one of his Schiavoni paintings—“The Riva degli Schiavoni: a view of Venice Looking West”– in 1736. The painting is now in the Sir John Soane’s Museum, London. It’s a very conventional Canaletto of the sort he painted for the English tourist crowd. Whether he was painting a palazzo or a lido, Canaletto typically filled his canvases with small groups of people who seem to be chatting, people who seem to yell, and people whose gestures bespeak directions. It’s usually the dogs that give away the paintings’ intimate secret: it is not just a visual scene being represented—a visual experience—but the human occupation of that expanse, and the fact that this occupation is characterized not by things seen, but by the subtlety of things heard. Canaletto is a noisy painter, but noisy in a way that does not require histrionics. You can hear it in the foreground of his Schiavoni painting, where a dog’s head is cocked to the conversation of a cluster of people a few steps away; nearby, a bargeman gestures and yells loudly enough to capture the attention of a woman walking by. Canaletto’s dogs have nothing of the grace of Gainsborough’s or the sleek eloquence of the Berner Nelkenmeister’s; they’re street-smart stragglers that both make noise and, with a turn of their head and ear, point it out to us.”
The current exhibition presents a sculpture that embodies these ideas and enters the viewer’s physical space, pointing out what is and what is not there.
Grigely currently has a large solo exhibition at MassMoCA. His work has been shown at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and in the Berlin, Istanbul, Liverpool, Sydney, and Whitney biennials. His work can be found in the collections of Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium; Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Grigely has published several books, including Oceans of Love: The Uncontainable Gregory Battcock (Koenig, 2016), MacLean 705 (The Architectural Association/Bedford Press, 2015), Exhibition Prosthetics (Bedford Press and Sternberg Press, 2010), Blueberry Surprise (Editions Michele Didier, 2006), Conversation Pieces (Center for Contemporary Art and Korinsha Press, 1998), Textualterity: Art, Theory, and Textual Criticism (University of Michigan Press, 1995), as well as essays on disability theory and body criticism.
Grigely is a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow (2005), and holds a D.Phil. from Oxford University. He is Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.