Rini Hurkmans
Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture
2020 – present

Introduction / Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture

Maker unknown, 1972, press photo, 19,4 x 22,9 cm, acquired in 1992 in New York by Rini Hurkmans.

Hurkmans’ working period as Artist in Residence at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR), partner of the Akademie van Kunsten (KNAW), is foundational for the overarching investigation entitled Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture. Her research into the press photo of the moment just after Michelangelo's Pietà was attacked in 1972 serves as the starting point for her new work that also builds upon earlier work inspired by this photo since she acquired it in 1992.

The Pietà is a religious image of a mother, Mary, with her dead son on her lap. It is an icon that depicts general emotions of human suffering in which loss, love, and grief come together and, therefore, the theme extends beyond the Christian belief. When the Pietà (1499) in the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was attacked by Laszlo Toth, he destroyed the left arm. Consequently, the initial gesture that reaches out to the public to engage with the theme of the Pietà was annihilated. The gesture and the press photo are multi-interpretable and carry a duality that challenges the viewer to consider ethical issues about justice and injustice, vulnerability and strength, perpetrator and victim.

The works under the title Pietà, A Reconsideration of the Gesture invite to reconsider the gesture, its engaging role that might include an awareness of communality, closeness, sensibility, and intuition, but might also involve gestures that disrupt, destroy, conceal, and condemn.

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