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  1. Sunday, October 22, 2017

  2. Monday, October 23, 2017

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Exhibitions

Hybridity: The Supernatural

  • Edward Burtynsky (Canadian) Ölfusá River #1, Iceland, 2012. Chromogenic print.

  • Patricia Piccinini (Australian) The Listener, 2013. Silicone, fiberglass, human hair, speaker cabinet.

  • Albano Afonso (Brazilian) Paradises (detail), 2012. Photographs on aluminum.

  • Chris Doyle (American), Circular Lament (still), 2016. Animated video.

About the Exhibition

The evolution of species and spaces in 21st century art explores the environmental, economic, and technological conditions shaping the earth and its inhabitants today. In these still and moving images of land and cityscapes, and in the taxidermy and fabricated figures of The Supernatural, nature meets technoculture, and the new natural is both organic and manufactured. Invoking past and future in a critique of the present, these paintings, photographs, sculptures, and videos document observed, current realities while referencing the aesthetic traditions of 19th and 20th century art. Influenced by Romanticism and Surrealism, science and commerce, these artists envision how the dreams and detritus of the industrial era have generated the promise and peril of the digital age.

Landscape, once the realm of the bucolic and pastoral, now appears fantastical, alluring, threatening, and threatened, permanently altered into an anthropocene: a manufactured earth whose contours and contents are determined by global commerce and technology. These hybrid territories are home to hybrid creatures, whose forms combine human, animal, and artificial features, the offspring of scientific research and imagination, reflecting our anxiety and aspirations for the future. While hybrids have been a staple of the collective cultural imagination for centuries, images of genetic recombinants populate in particular the art of the turn of 20th century, as do they now. During these periods of significant concurrent economic, technological, and socio-political change, hybrids embody fear and desire, the known and the unknown. They and the territories they may inhabit belong to the uncanny, a place eerily alien and familiar at once. As the post-industrial world transforms into the bytes and pixels of the digital age, the sublime becomes the supernatural.

“We pack a lot of fear into the landscape right now,” observes Chris Doyle, who moves between analog and digital practices, using both watercolor and software-based animation to explore the evolution of nature and artifice. The collapsing buildings and crumbling infrastructure depicted in Doyle’s Apocalypse Management (telling about being one being living) envisions the aftermath of massive destruction akin to the natural and human-induced disasters both witnessed and anticipated today. “The particular cause of the devastation is unclear,” explains the artist, but whether natural disaster, act of war, or environmental nightmare, the scenario of wreckage portends a state of emergency for which we are reminded to be ready. The figures in the animation are each lost in the moment when disaster ends and the processes of grieving and rebuilding begin.The duality of grief and hope inherent in the mourning process are entwined in the layered limbs and shifting patterns of Doyle’s Circular Lament, in which color-saturated forms recall the flora and fauna of a forest-like mindscape. Loss, longing, memory, and meditation are both embedded and evoked in this hypnotic, looping vision of complex, constructed space emerging from the artist’s experience and imagination.

Increasingly shaped and perceived through digital code, “The encrypted landscape,” Doyle observes, “is a place that contains multiple realities.” The enchanted land and light-scapes Albano Afonso conjures belong to the hybrid realm of the daydream: consciously conceived, shaped by imagination, suspended in fantasy and experienced in lived reality at once. At first glance, Afonso’s Landscape Crystallizations read as realistic photographs of dense, jungle-like forest environments. In some areas within these images, saturated color, and sharp contrasts between light and shadow give way to exaggerated forms: the flat planes of a Cubist geometry emerge among the flora and fauna, the contours of leaves and plants becoming faceted and reproduce like renderings from digital code—crystallized

Afonso constructs his landscapes as enigmatic fields of mystery: while titles may denote a geographic source, the images seem suspended in time, severed from the realism of specific time and place. The perforated surface of Paradise is overlaid on aluminum, creating reflective portals of light that transport the viewer deeper into a layered, shimmering artifice. The mirrors situate the viewer within the image, while simultaneously enacting a profound displacement—creating a supernatural space akin to what philosopher Michel Foucault calls a heretopia: “I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space… I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives visibility to myself.”

A fairy-tale-like fantasy also unfolds in Anthony Goicolea’s Feral Forest, where lush layered colors and forms suggest familiar imagery but reveal an unpredictable metamorphosis of a boggy, wooded landscape filling with cotton plants and a reddish swamp, in transition back to the wild. Within Goicolea’s large-scale drawings series, Pathetic Fallacy (titled after 19th-century critic John Ruskin’s term for anthropomorphism in art), tree trunks merge with human organs, potentially the hybrid results of cross-pollination in a world where habitats, bodies, and DNA may be shared.

Science, as well as imagination, inspires Goicolea, as well as Patricia Piccinini, Laura Ball, Thomas Grünfeld, Sarah Garzoni, Kate Clark, Joshua Haycraft, and others. Cloning, mutations, and other forms of genetic engineering and technical innovation create new life forms here—a fleshy, wide-eyed, long-haired being resting atop an electronic speaker, a parade of animal species close to extinction whose bodies are morphing together, a bird’s head atop a goat’s body, a chicken “wearing” a rabbit, a gazelle with distinctly human facial features, a tiny bird sporting an mechanized beak at home in a Plexiglas habitat. Critic Michael Rattray observes that taxidermy like Garzoni’s Mascarade 3 signals entry into a surreal frontier: the object posed frozen as if it were still living may give pause in its stasis. The aesthetic moment thereby enters the unreal universe of altered time, altered space.” Yet, while often fantastical, such hybrids embody Freud’s definition of the uncanny in their combination of the truly alien and the deeply familiar. Indeed, these creatures are not merely the projections of human emotion or thought onto the non-human: medical science and technology promise a brave new world of cures and improvements, sometimes in service of restoring what has been lost or destroyed.

“Contemporary technology is full of promises and myths,” says Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, “Media culture plays on our hopes and desires for technology with a multitude of pledges and assurances.” And yet, neither innovation nor evolution has ever been subject to total control. What if the creations of the technoculture evolve in unexpected ways? Piccinini’s The Listener is at once enticing and alarming, its facial expression tender and vulnerable. Curled atop a speaker, the long-haired, doe-eyed creature is presented as if at home—enjoying the entertainment made possible by technology—the potential source of its own existence. As climate change, environmental damage, human behavior, and scientific experimentation actively affect how and which species will evolve, Piccinini’s work is an inquiry into our relationship with what the future may beget, asking if we would welcome The Listener at home: “I am particularly fascinated by the unexpected consequences, the stuff we don’t want but somehow must accommodate. There is no question as to whether there will be undesired outcomes; my interest is in whether we will be able to love them.”

Piccinini’s attitude towards the technoscience she investigates is equivocal—“Just because something is bad doesn’t mean that is not good;” and dreams of becoming animal to gain power or insight, to escape circumstance or self, are pervasive. Grant Hayunga’s peyote-induced vision of a human-bodied, animal-headed creature; figures at play and in conflict astride wild animals in Laura Ball’s watercolors; Carlee Fernandez’s costumed play Bear Study, Kate Clark’s fierce antelope-woman whose seductive gaze offers The Answer to Your Prayers, and Oleg Dou’s eerie, horned animal children all enact a fantasy of merging the human ego with an animal id to circumvent or supersede human limitations.

As the window and the computer screen share an increasingly similar function, a visual understanding of landscape may truly become synonymous with digital imagery, as in Jennifer Steinkamp’s projections. Dervish 3 presents a digital tree, spinning through the seasons, its leaves growing, changing colors, dying and falling, then budding again in ceaseless motion. This dazzling animation alters the viewer’s physical and visual perception of the static space onto which it is projected; the wall seems to have magically opened onto a new yet familiar world.

The aesthetics of the digital age fluctuate from dazzling to devastating, charting a cyclical progression beyond what either nature or technology alone may dictate. The combination of beauty and terror that Romantic painters of the 19th century described as sublime has been supplanted by alluring and alarming visions of a planet shaped by human activity. The effects of shifting environmental and economic conditions are documented, imagined, and transformed in works by Luis Gispert, Edward Burtynksky, Alice Pixley Young, Elena Dorfman, Chris Doyle, and others. Consumerism shapes landscapes both real and imagined. In Chanel Jetty, Luis Gispert combines the expansive, lakeside vista of Rozel Point, Utah with the interior of a drug dealer’s vehicle outfitted in fake designer fabric; the car’s circular subwoofers visually echoing the pattern of Robert Smithson’s iconic land art, Spiral Jetty (1970), visible in the foreground.

Photographer Edward Burtynsky’s predominant subject is also what he defines as “the residual landscape, nature transformed through industry.” In images such as Oil Spill #1, REM Forza, Gulf of Mexico, May 11, Burtynsky reveals the beauty and the ruin wrought by the harvesting of natural resources. Documenting the global anthropocene, Burtynksy says, “I set course to intersect with the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, to transportation, silicon, and so on…Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries, and refineries, are all places outside our normal experiences, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.”

The arching plume of smoke that appears in Alice Pixley Young’s Will You Miss Me When I Burn? (Through A Glass Darkly) critiques both the environmental wreckage caused by oil spills and the limitations of human perception that allow such damage to occur. This image of the Deepwater Horizon explosion off of the US coast is presented within an antique mirror placed set against a wall drawing rendered in fading hues of ashy grey. The dark mirror, explains the artist, recalls the Claude glass (also known as a black mirror), a black tinted mirror that was used by the Hudson River School painters to view landscapes and create idealized, “picturesque” vistas from which to paint.” Like Chris Doyle’s re-envisioning of Thomas Cole’s Hudson River masterpiece, Young’s Through A Glass Darkly series transforms the 19th century sublime into a provocative revelation about current conditions and human behavior—here, linking “the idea of psychological darkness with the historical Romanticist associations of the “Black Mirror.”

Historical references to neoclassicism also animate Marc Quinn’s sumptuous Portraits of Landscapes and the multi-media collage and ceramic works by Future Retrieval. Portraits of Landscapes are thrice removed from their source: an installation of flowering plants Quinn preserved in full bloom in liquid silicon in an industrial-size refrigerator were painted as landscapes; the landscapes were then reworked into prints, their colors heightened and forms flattened, further emphasizing the artifice of preserving the organic. Future Retrieval’s The emphasis on artificiality in these highly stylized images of still lifes transform nostalgic allusions to an artistic tradition into critiques of that nostalgia, while addressing the role of aesthetics in reflecting social identity.

The current nostalgia for the remnants of industrial manufacture mixes fact and fiction, history and desire: “Our current environmentalist sensibility, countenancing with horror the ‘scars of industry’ qua quarries and other ravaged natural sites, seeks to normalize, familiarize, domesticate. A quarry turned into a shopping mall becomes a cleansing of conscience, a recovered ‘industrial wasteland.’” So writes Kevin Moore of Elena Dorfman’s Empire Falling, a series of digitally manipulated photographs of abandoned and repurposed quarries. Layering dozens, sometimes hundreds, of images, Dorfman illuminates our geologic, industrial, and economic history, using time-based art to effectively create a portrait of time. As Moore observes, by producing abstractions of real landscapes that once yielded valued resources, “she is not only capturing in the original images the original conditions of the genesis of capital, she is also representing…subsequent conditions, i.e., the development of finance capital.” The title is derived from the Empire Falls quarry, from which stone was harvested to build the Empire State building and other monuments, as well as for roads and crop fertilizer. As Moore notes, “Both uses demonstrate a conquest of nature, the transformation of subterranean chaos into territorial order, of raw materials into social structure.” Dorfman’s project delineates the concurrent—and descendent—evolution of capital and its material representation in neoclassical architecture that signaled power and safeguarded hard currency, to the virtual wealth, whose accumulation and exchange, like digital photography, is today manipulated onscreen.

The parallel evolution of economic and ecological conditions in the post-industrial age is the subject of Chris Doyle’s Waste_Generation. The second in his series of digital animations inspired by 19th-century painter Thomas Cole’s allegorical Course of Empire, Doyle’s vividly rendered trash heaps and dying factories spewing smoke and dollar bills lay bare the legacy of commercial manufacture, while scrolls of leaves and rapidly sprouting flora and fauna herald nature’s resurgence. “The landscape is completely stylized through design,” says the artist, “specifically the influence of William Morris and the presentation of the acanthus, the plant on the dollar bill. I am interested not just in natural elements, but the way we interpret them through design and the way we control the natural world through designing it into submission.” The lifecycle of paper currency playing on the screen mirrors the artist’s “nostalgia for the moment when our industrialized culture [gave] way to information technology,” and yet Doyle’s digital course of empire is cyclical, not linear, generative, rather than apocalyptic.

The dizzying spectacle of Rob Carter’s Metropolis animates another endless loop of creation and destruction: the evolution of the contemporary urban landscape. Carter’s video charts the growth of Charlotte, North Carolina from bucolic farmland to a sprawling tangle of buildings and highways that rapidly disappear and are replaced, their waste generating new cities, over and over, until the built world is buried once more.

Within the realm of the supernatural, blighted landscapes, defunct factories, and iconic architecture are into intertwined physical and virtual components of a world inhabited by new archetypes of hybridity. Creatures such as Nandipha Mntambo’s Maquette for Minotaurus signal transformation of both past and present: the sculpture is a self-portrait of the artist as the half-bull, half-human of Greek mythology. Unlike the male Minotaur, who roamed an underground labyrinth on four hooves, she stands upright, regal, and powerful, embodying fantasy but not fear, having emerged from an uncanny valley of artistic imagination that re-envisions both our history and our future.

Alice Gray Stites, Museum Director, Chief Curator

References:

David Barro, “Albano Afonso, Fissures in Perception,” catalog essay, Albano Afonso, CasaTriângulo, 2011.

Donna Haraway, “Speculative Fabulations for Technoculture’s Generations,” catalog essay, (tender) creature, Artrium Gallery, Wellington New Zealand, 2007.

Kevin Moore, Elena Dorfman: Empire Falling. Milan: Damiani/Crump, 2013.

Chris Doyle and Patricia Maloney, Bad at Sports, December 2012.

 

Albano Afonso (Brazilian)
Landscape Crystallization, June 2011, Berlin, 2014
Photograph

Landscape Crystallization, July 2013, Rio de Janeiro, 2014
Photograph

Paradises, 2012
Photographs on aluminum

Laura Ball (American)
Amalgamate, 2010
Watercolor and graphite on paper

Armoured Personnel Carriers #2, 2005
Watercolor on paper

Refuge 1, 2014
Watercolor and graphite on paper

Untitled (Abstract Elephant), 2010
Watercolor and graphite on paper

Untitled (Tree), 2010
Watercolor and graphite on paper

Julien Berthier (French)
Forest skyline, 2007
Pen on paper

Roundabout sculpture, 2007
Pen on paper

Edward Burtynsky (Canadian)
Oil Spill #1, REM Forza, Gulf of Mexico, May 11, 2010
Chromogenic print

Ölfusá River #1, Iceland, 2012
Chromogenic print

Xiaolangdi Dam #2, Yellow River, Henan Province, China, 2011
Chromogenic print

Rob Carter (English)
Metropolis, 2008
Single-channel HD video, running time 9:30 minutes

Ying Kit Chan (Chinese American)
Do Not Diptych, 2014
Mixed media, ink and acrylic on paper, pigment print photographs
Courtesy of the Artist

Live Deep Diptych, 2014
Mixed media, ink and acrylic on paper, pigment print photograph
Courtesy of the Artist

Julian Charrière and Julius von Bismarck (Swiss and German)
Some Pigeons Are More Equal Than Others, 2012
Color prints and machine

Kate Clark (American)
The Answer to Your Prayers, 2013
Antelope hide, antlers, foam, clay, pins, thread, rubber eyes, wood, paint

Cracking Art Group (Italian, Belgian)
1 Family of 12 Little Turtles and 6 Big Turtles, 2009
Plastic

Rob de Mar (American)
Untitled, 2000
Mixed media

Elena Dorfman (American)
Empire Falling 5, 2012
Digital chromogenic print on metallic paper

Empire Falling 21, 2012
Digital chromogenic print on metallic paper

Oleg Dou (Russian)
Fawn, 2011
Chromogenic print

Rabbit, 2011
Chromogenic print

Chris Doyle (American)
A History of the 20th Century, 2010
Digital print

Apocalypse Management Panorama III, 2010
Digital print

Circular Lament, 2016
Animated video, running time 5:44 minutes

Reflector, 2012
Two-channel digital animation on custom built computer, running time 4:12 minutes

Rondo, 2011
Single-channel video, running time 3:14 minutes

Waste_Generation, 2011
Digital animation, running time 6:28 minutes

Carlee Fernandez (American)
Bear Head, Arm and Leg Study I, 2004
Chromogenic print

Bear Head Study, 2004
Chromogenic print

Bear Head Study II, 2004
Chromogenic print

Bear Study Diptych, 2004
Chromogenic prints

Juan Fontanive (American)
Orinthology 1, 2015
Four-color silkscreen print, stainless steel, aluminum, motor, electronics

Future Retrieval (American)
Gangster’s Paradise Redux, 2014
Porcelain, wood, hand-cut paper, gold leaf
Courtesy of the Artist

Sarah Garzoni (French)
Mascarade 3, 2011
Taxidermied chicken and Angora rabbit

Luis Gispert (American)
Chanel Jetty, 2011
Chromogenic print

Anthony Goicolea (American)
Cross Section II (Hair), 2011
Graphite ink on Mylar

Cross Section II (Lungs), 2011
Graphite ink on Mylar

Feral Forest, 2014
Graphite, acrylic and ink on Mylar

Implode with Hair, 2011
Graphite and ink on Mylar

Search Party, 2007
Acrylic paint and mixed media on Mylar

Sticks and Bones, 2011
Graphite and ink on Mylar, wood and glass

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing II, 2011
Graphite and ink on Mylar

Enrique Gomez de Molina (Cuban)
Fantasia, 2013
Axis deer antlers, goat fur, Ring-necked pheasant feathers, alligator leather back, bull hooves, mixed media

Thomas Grünfeld (German)
Misfit, 2004
Taxidermy

Joshua Haycraft (American)
Time Transposition Device, 2013
Mixed media including taxidermied canary, plastic, metal, contact lens and 3D printed parts

Time Transposition Device Plaque, 2011
Inkjet print on archival paper

Grant Hayunga (American)
Cheetah, 2005
Mixed media on paper

Mathias Kessler (German)
It’ll blow over (worldview from the Arctic), 2008
Compressor, coiling, etched mirror

John Kleckner (American)
Untitled, 2006
Ink and watercolor on paper

Gerhard Marx (South African)
Looking Down (Square), 2014
Plant material with acrylic ground on canvas

Nandipha Mntambo (South African)
Maquette for Minotaurus, 2015
Bronze and sandstone base

Kohei Nawa (Japanese)
PixCell – Monkey, 2004
Mixed media

Lori Nix (American)
Uranium Extraction Plant, 2000
Chromogenic print

Michael Oatman (American)
Pornithology (Widow), 2007
Collage on paper

Singles Cruise, 2005
Collage on paper

Rachael Pease (American)
To the Moon, 2014
Ink on frosted Mylar

Patricia Piccinini (Australian)
Surrogate, 2005
Silicone, hair, acrylic resin, leather, timber

The Listener, 2013
Silicone, fiberglass, human hair, speaker cabinet

Marc Quinn (English)
Portrait of Landscapes, 2007
Pigment prints

Amparo Sard (Spanish)
The Fly Woman Series, 2007
Perforated paper

Anastasia Schipani (American)
Nature Revives Itself After Man, 2014
Tapestry cloth, thread

Steven Spazuk (Canadian)
Deactivator, 2015
Soot on paper

Monoculture 2, 2015
Soot on paper

Pin 6, 2015
Soot on paper

Jennifer Steinkamp (American)
Dervish 3, 2004
Video installation

Alice Pixley Young (American)
Will You Miss Me When I Burn, 2014
Ash, kiln cast glass, video
Courtesy of the Artist

Katsutoshi Yuasa (Japanese)
1:43 am, 2013
Oil-based woodcut print on hand-painted paper