Close-up image dark curves and lines across a bright field of warm and cool colors

Ellen Carey, Penlight Drawing (detail), 2008, Carnegie Museum of Art, Second Century Acquisition Fund © Ellen Carey

Controlling the Chaos

Scaife Galleries

How do artists respond to the chaos of our world? By retreating into the controlled environment of the studio, or by venturing out in search of inspiration? Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing political polarization, these questions seem more urgent than ever before.

Controlling the Chaos features photographs from Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection that offer a range of responses to the complexity of lived experience today. Some artists use abstraction as a tool to slow down our looking and encourage deeper connections with what we see; others focus on the human body, often their own, presenting it as a landscape that has witnessed trauma to which others might relate. Many of these photographs were made by artists who are from or live in Pittsburgh, offering a local perspective on global concerns. These pictures prompt us to look differently at our surroundings and, perhaps, find meaning in chaos.

Artists in the exhibition include Blythe Bohnen, Marco Breuer, Ellen Carey, Sarah Charlesworth, Bruce Conner, Sam Contis, Corey Escoto, Barbara Ess, Lori Hepner, Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Alison Rossiter, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Sara VanDerBeek.

Controlling the Chaos is organized by Dan Leers, curator of photography.

Exhibition Images

A number of flies sit on the back of shirt worn by a person sitting down.
A piece of paper charred in the center by a small explosion.
The white shape of a five-petaled flower set against a dark background.
Geometric shapes on a solid field of bright color.
An abstract image focusing on a circular blue stone set against a painting of blue, rust, and gray shapes.
The horizon line where the sea meets the sky.