Joan Didion: What She Means at the HammerMuseum is an interesting examination of the writer using artwork as a portrait, a narration, of the life of the artist. Organized by critically acclaimed writer and New Yorker contributor Hilton Als, in collaboration with Connie Butler, Chief curator at the Hammer, and Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi, curatorial assistant, the exhibition features approximately fifty artists with more then 200 works including painting, personal artifacts, photography, sculpture, video and footage from a number of the films for which Didion authored screenplays, quotes from her writing about driving and much more.
Among the artworks are display cases with family photographs, old yearbooks, and objects associated with her family; a sigh for her fathers real estate brokerage, a lap desk.
Opening less than a year after her death at age 87, and planned since 2019, Joan Didion: What She Means follows her career that grapples with the simultaneously personal and distant evolution of Didion’s voice as a writer and pioneer of the “New Journalism.”
“I don’t want you to think of this as a definitive portrait of Joan,” says Als in the digital guide to the show. “I’m borrowing from the collage effects of her work, particularly her late work, where she pulled in a lot of different kinds of information to make an essay or a portrait of a place or a person.”