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Installation view of Cynthia Daignau's exhibition "As I Lay Dying" at New Museum Triennial

"As I Lay Dying," 2021

Night Gallery is pleased to announce Cynthia Daignault's participation in Soft Water Hard Stone, the fifth New Museum Triennial. The exhibition is curated by Margot Norton, Allen and Lola Goldring Curator at the New Museum, and Jamillah James, Senior Curator, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA), with Jeanette Bisschops, Curatorial Fellow, and Bernardo Mosqueira, ISLAA Curatorial Fellow.

For the New Museum Triennial, Cynthia Daignault presents As I Lay Dying, a new seven-panel painting series. Daignault often works serially in a practice she refers to as “long-form painting.” Within this form, she uses groupings and installations of canvases to explore the immersive and narrative possibilities of painting. For her latest series, Daignault focuses on Civil War trees, each painting a haunting portrait of a single battlefield tree. Painted from the fields and forests of the Civil War—Gettysburg, Antietam, Manassas, Fredericksburg, Monocacy, and Spotsylvania—these so-called Witness Trees are the last survivors of the war, and the last living connectors to its dark and pervasive history. 
In As I Lay Dying, Daignault expands upon a project she began in her 2019 exhibition at Night Gallery, Elegy, using historical images and icons to posit a contemporary take on the genre of history painting. Her approach is poignant and indirect, emphasizing metaphor and mood over historical reenactment. To depict the trees—the passive witnesses of history—rather than the battles is to focus on the enduring nature of trauma that reverberates even now. The banality of the tree imagery underlines the subtle ways that violence permeates the everyday, often evading attention or notice. At eight feet tall and in a grand vertical format, the canvases evoke a monument or memorial, while the black-and-white palette establishes a somber tone and articulates a relationship to history, archive, and document. There is a diffuse and gossamer quality to the light in these works, giving each portrait the resonance of a memory or specter and underscoring the presence of death and loss. Profound and quietly rigorous, Daignault's portraits are an unflinching testament to all that is lost to time, and all that withstands it. 


Cynthia Daignault (b. 1978, Baltimore, MD) has exhibited work in many major museums and institutions, including the New Museum, New York, NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; and White Columns, New York. She has had solo presentations at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY; the Sunday Painter, London, UK; Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; FLAG Art Foundation, New York; Herron Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN; CAPITAL, San Francisco, CA; and Stems Gallery, Brussels, BE, among others. In November 2021, she will present a solo exhibition at Kasmin Gallery in New York. Her work is in numerous public collections, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Aishti Foundation, Jal El Dib, LB; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among others. Daignault is a regularly published author, and her writings have been published in a range of publications. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2019 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, a 2016 Foundation for the Contemporary Arts Award, a 2011 Rema Hort Foundation Award, and a 2010 Macdowell Colony Fellowship. She lives and works in Baltimore.