Sonic Presence (or Absence): Sound in Contemporary Art

June 23, 2023–January 7, 2024

Glenn Ligon, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, “Skin Tight (Thuglife II),” 1995. Yellow ink on black vinyl. 35 x 18 x 37 inches. Edition of 7. Process and Practice: 40 Years of Experimentation at The Fabric Workshop and Museum (installation view), 2017–18. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

Sonic Presence (or Absence)…listens for what happens when artists approach sound as something not only to play, but play with.” —Surface Magazine

How can sound, actual or implied, impact or inform our interpretation of both unremarkable and extraordinary experiences? While sound is physical—a wave moving through space—it remains invisible to the human eye. Like a texture we cannot touch, implied sound is dependent on our imaginations, memories, and projections.

Throughout The Fabric Workshop and Museum’s history, Artists-in-Residence have used sound as the focus or as a conceptual component of their residencies. These projects have often explored how to offer a direct translation of sound, an indirect representation of its energy and cultural forms, or inspire an audible response from an audience. As the title suggests, the artworks presented in this exhibition demonstrate the notion of a “sonic presence,” a palpable connection between the visual and the aural. Featuring works from the Museum’s collection alongside a selection of loaned works, Sonic Presence invites visitors to explore the resonant themes of sound in visual arts, be it implied, imagined, absent, or realized. 

Encounter works across a range of media by the following artists: Terry Adkins, Janine Antoni, Moe Brooker, Nick Cave, Lenka Clayton, Kevin Cooley, Peter Edwards, Guillermo Galindo, Ann Hamilton, Christine Sun Kim, Phillip Andrew Lewis, Glenn Ligon, Thomas Mader, Jason Moran, Robert Morris, Stephen Petronio, Raúl Romero, Yinka Shonibare, Patrick Siler, Kiki Smith, Mika Tajima, and Lenore Tawney.


The Fabric Workshop and Museum
1214 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Eighth Floor Gallery

Plan Your Visit

This exhibition is included with free general admission

Free Tickets

Art in This Exhibition

Downloadable Media and Related Links

Download the Press ReleaseDownload the Press Release

About the Curator

Sonic Presence (or Absence): Sound in Contemporary Art is organized by Alec Unkovic, former FWM Exhibitions Manager.


Generous support for this project provided by Art Bridges.

Major support of FWM is provided by the Marion Boulton “Kippy” Stroud Foundation. FWM receives state art funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support is provided by Agnes Gund and the Board of Directors and Members of The Fabric Workshop and Museum.


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