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Regarded as one of the great American novels, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) presents an allegorical story that has been reinterpreted over the past 168 years and still holds a prophetic power over our collective imagination. Scholars have long debated its interpretations of humanity’s dangerous search for meaning; conflict between good and evil; the struggle between individualism and socialism, between science and nature; the capitalistic quest for profits at any cost; and the triumphs and failings of American values.

Summon the Sea! Contemporary Artists and Moby Dick examines the work of six contemporary artists—Corey Arnold, Guy Ben-Ner, Patty Chang, Tristin Lowe, Allan Sekula, and Frank Stella—who act as epic storytellers as they respond to, challenge, and celebrate the allegories presented in Melville’s literary classic through large-scale sculpture, photography, prints, and video made since 1985. These artists were selected for the epic nature of their own searching: the bodies of work on view represent a similar tome-like status in each artist’s oeuvre—they were either painstakingly created over multiple years or were executed on an epic scale warranted by a novel like Moby-Dick. These artists’ work encourages dialogue about ecology and nature, economics and industry, human psychology and emotion.

The exhibition comprises four major temporary exhibition galleries in the Jepson Center. Steward South and Kane Gallery: November 1, 2019-February 16, 2020. Levitt and Varnedoe Galleries: October 11, 2019-January 26, 2020.


Summon the Sea! Contemporary Artists and Moby Dick is organized by Telfair Museums and curated by Rachel Reese, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.