Touring The Trio: Momentary unveils three new exhibitions

Touring The Trio: Momentary unveils three new exhibitions

Bentonville contemporary arts space the Momentary introduced itself to Northwest Arkansas and the art world at large with two monumental exhibitions during its premiere year — in spite of a pandemic! Both “State of the Art: 2020,” showcasing more than 60 artists, and “Nick Cave: Until” occupied the entire footprint of the multi-use venue’s gallery spaces. In its second year, the Momentary will put forth an exhibition schedule that is more indicative of its capabilities, rhythm and curatorial mission.

Los Angles-based visual artist Sarah Cain is known for her site-specific and site-responsive practice. One place visitors will see that reflected is in Cain’s piece “Wild Flower.” During an early visit to the Momentary when the space was still under construction, Cain noticed a high up window that was set to be filled in. It seemed the perfect spot for her stained glass piece so she ask that the window be kept and it now frames the work. (Courtesy Photo/the Momentary, by Ironside Photography)

“Sarah Cain: In Nature,” “Derrick Adams: Sanctuary” and “Diana Al-Hadid: Ash in the Trade Winds” are three separate exhibitions that opened on a staggered schedule over the past month. Cain’s vivid colors and bold figures welcome visitors in the Lobby Gallery; the rich history and tactile materiality of Adams’ “Sanctuary” fill Galleries 1 and 3; and Al-Hadid’s raw, industrial aesthetic takes over Gallery 2.

Each includes works in varied materials and styles, and each offers a unique perspective on the ways in which contemporary artists are making work at this moment.

“I’m just really excited to have them all open now,” enthuses Lauren Haynes, director of artist initiatives and curator, contemporary art, at the Momentary and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

“And, especially, to have that experience of someone coming to the Momentary and spending time walking through all the exhibitions and really having those individual experiences, but also being able to really take away from all three and the different conversations that they can have with each other. It’s going to be, I think, a nice entry into spring for us at the Momentary.”

The title of Diana Al-Hadid’s exhibition comes from this work of the same name: “Ash in the Trade Winds.” The piece is a triptych, three panels, with a gradient of color that illustrates the movements of trade winds. “I had seen Diana’s work in the past, but it really thought of her work from a more abstract point. [But] I realized that she was really sourcing these amazing art historical references and using them throughout all her works,” Garcia-Maestas recalls. For example, with the “Ash in the Trade Winds piece, “as you stand closer to it, in the center panel, you can actually start to see the arches that look really similar to painting, you can start to see the sort of Islamic architecture that she’s capturing in this work.” (The Free Weekly/FLIP PUTTHOFF)

One of the goals of the visual arts program at the Momentary is to offer guests the opportunity to experience art in a range, Haynes told What’s Up! during an October discussion of the upcoming temporary exhibitions. The spring schedule also features the first two exhibitions curated by the Momentary team specifically for this venue. (Staff did participate in the curation for “State of the Art: 2020” along with Crystal Bridges curators, but that exhibit is a continuation of the 2014 exhibition project of the same name.)

Cain’s “In Nature” was the first of the new shows to open, on Feb. 12, and has been in development for some time. Cain visited the Momentary while it was still a construction site and was inspired by the building’s very evident factory roots, reveals Haynes, who curated the 10-piece exhibition.

“One thing that’s been really exciting for us…is to see how wonderful Diana’s work looks at the Momentary,” assistant curator Kaitlin Garcia-Maestas enthuses. Al-Hadid’s “Ash in the Trade Winds” is on display in Gallery 2, which last held Nick Cave’s “Crystal Cloudscape,” a “sparkly, colorful piece,” Garcia-Maestas says. “So as we are going through this process and putting different work in each space, I think we’re learning more about it … and how to really use the space and maximize the industrial architecture and the aesthetic that we have at the Momentary, because it is really special. And I know that Diana really loves it and has adored having her work in conversation with it.” (The Free Weekly/FLIP PUTTHOFF)

“It was very exciting to embark on this conversation and this project with Sarah because of the way that she thinks. She very much thinks site-specifically, site-responsively, with her projects,” Haynes details.

That way of thinking even affected the building’s construction, Haynes goes on. During that first visit, Cain noticed a high up window that was set to be filled in. Having recently added stained glass work to her practice, Cain asked staff to keep the window. It ended up being the perfect spot for her 2018 stained glass piece “Wild Flower.”

“I think that’s one of the things that I enjoy the most about the Momentary and our building, and our process of working with artists for a lot of these projects,” Haynes shares. “We’re able to really have these conversations, and these push-and-pull moments that really create an overall final product.”

Opened Feb. 23, Derrick Adams’ “Sanctuary” uses art to examine a difficult piece of America’s past that is still lamentably relevant today. The Green Book, or “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was a guidebook published from 1936 to 1967 to identify welcoming businesses, towns and even whole regions, as well as unsafe establishments for Black Americans during the Jim Crow era.

“These beacon sculptures … really indicate the fact that these places, these sanctuaries, were in fact beacons,” Haynes notes of Adams’ sculptures. “I like to think about them as light houses — this idea that you’ve traveled a long way and all you really want is a place to sleep, all you really want is something to eat. And so you’re going towards these destinations that the Green Book was able to provide for you.” (Courtesy Photo/Derrick Adams and Salon 94, New York) (Courtesy Photo/the Museum of Art and Design, by Jenna Bascom)

Through mixed-media collage and sculpture, Adams uses The Green Book as reference material to reflect on the concept of freedom of mobility — who has it and who doesn’t, even today.

“For me, this exhibition fits so lovely in our space, because it’s taking something that’s historical as its starting point, but really bringing it to this present moment,” Haynes says. “And [he’s] also really talking about how this idea of relaxation and leisure, how it can be seen as a political act for Black Americans — this idea that, ‘I just want to go on a road trip,’ ‘I just want to go swimming,’ I just want to do these things that so many people take for granted, and what it means to do that in a continually fraught time.”

Finally, on March 5, Diana Al-Hadid’s “Ash in the Trade Winds” brought towering, imposing, but also awe-inspiring and intricate pieces into Gallery 2. In her wall panels and sculptures, Al-Hadid explores dualities in gender, memory, migration and progress. The mixing of materials also reflects Al-Hadid’s cross-cultural identity, being a Syrian immigrant raised in Ohio.

Though Derrick Adams’ exhibition “Sanctuary” touches on uncomfortable truths of American history, there is also a great deal of play and fun in the works, Haynes shares. “The sculptures in the Green Book installation are caps, driving caps. When people used to travel, there was an attire for driving — you would don your driving cap, don your driving gloves, and go. And Derrick has turned these caps into cars that are on this roadway sculpture that he’s created.” (Courtesy Photo/the Momentary, by Ironside Photography)

Figurative suggestions exist in Al-Hadid’s pieces. Glimpses of the female form, moments from history and Islamic architecture lie just under the surface of the pieces’ hard exteriors, encouraging slow examination.

“It was really enlightening to have her as an artist to speak about this moment, because I think we often have been talking about this is like the worst year ever,” muses Kaitlin Garcia-Maestas, assistant curator at the Momentary and the curator of “Ash in the Trade Winds.” Some of the history of catastrophe in Al-Hadid’s work offers hope to the struggle we face today, Garcia-Maestas says.

“Not to play down … the last year and the pandemic, but to really offer some perspective, and some hope that, even though we have these challenging moments through history, artists always continue to make art to reflect on these moments. … That has been really one of those special things about working with her, and a testament to just the overall process of working with living artists, is that they teach us so much, and they offer us so many new perspectives to see our lives in.”


“In Nature” includes abstract works on canvas, functional floor paintings, sculpture and more. The pieces are abstract in nature, while also weaving in references to pop culture, artist Sarah Cain’s interests, and her life, Haynes explains. “The colors are wild and bright but there are also these elements that look like jewels and different crystals that she’s added. She’s very much embracing these elements that can sometimes be considered girly in a way that some artists may reject. Sarah is very much embracing them because she rejects this idea that femininity is frivolity. It’s all a part of her part of her process and a part of the work that she makes.” (Courtesy Photo/Sarah Cain and Vielmetter Los Angeles) (Photo by Jeff McLane)


The Momentary


Exhibition Schedule

‘Sarah Cain: In Nature’

WHEN — On display through May 30

‘Derrick Adams: Sanctuary’

WHEN — Through June 6

‘Diana Al-Hadid: Ash in the Trade Winds’

WHEN — Through June 13

WHERE — The Momentary, 507 S.E. E St. in Bentonville

COST — Free

INFO — 367-7500,

Categories: Galleries