By Aimee Lusty
"Animal Intent" at apexart in Tribeca, New York features a group of interdisciplinary artists using animal culture, communication, and their behavior as a point of departure and a collaborative device in their work. The exhibition, organized by Emily Falvey, includes a range of artistic practices by Annie Dunning, Aganetha Dyck, William Eakin, Nina Katchadourian, Alison Reiko Loader & Christopher Plenzich, and Michael Anthony Simon.
The exhibition begins with a video work by Alison Reiko Loader introducing the viewer to her collaborators, a team of tent caterpillar larvae (Malacosoma disstria), through a microscopic lens. The video exposes intimate details of their structure, texture and behavior. It is installed alongside three charcoal drawings, a collaboration with entomologist Christopher Plenzich. The drawings resemble trail maps with seemingly random destinations, composed by gestures that fade from dark to light. The drawing process is revealed in a video in which the artists curate small mounds of charcoal dust on paper and gently place the tent caterpillar larvae in the center of the medium. They walk off the paper, unknowingly distributing the dust, drawing with their bristly hairs.
Artist Nina Kachadourian presents a series of three photographs, capturing an intimate and unlikely friendship between a pet snake and a rat that was originally introduced to it as food. The photographs isolate the couple on a black background, using illuminated lighting techniques reminiscent of 17th century tenebrism, to capture their curious and playful interactions. In an accompanying video work, Kachadourian inserts the word “GIFT” into a spider’s web. The video chronicles the spider’s successful efforts to deny and dispose of the gift. The work was inspired by cultural practices particular to spiders that wrap dead flies in their silk and offer them as gifts to potential mates.
Michael Anthony Simon works with the species Nephila clavata, a member of the golden orb-web spider group. He appropriates their intricate webs, altering them with layers of spray paint. The buildup produces a lacquered web with strands up to 1mm thick. The patterns are preserved in bold unnatural colors. Reminiscent of crochet, the forms naturally drape with the gravity of the paint.
“Sapsucker Sounds,” a music box by Annie Dunning, is installed in the center of the gallery with a handle introducing an interactive element. The project was inspired by the pattern of holes drilled by a yellow bellied sapsucker into a section of a Manchurian Walnut tree. The piece was made by reverse casting the branch and sapsucker holes. Inverted, the holes become pins that interact with a comb of metal tines as the lever is turned. The resulting sound is unnatural, clunky, metallic and abrasive.
In a series by photographer William Eakin the surreal and abstract forms are vaguely recognizable as the interior of a bee hive. With the introduction of artificial light, new colors and halo effects obscure the cavernous inner layers of the hive’s structure. In collaboration with the same apiary and its insect residents, artist Aganetha Dyck introduces kitsch objects into the hives allowing the bees to use the forms as framework for their wax sculptures. The skill and craftsmanship of their work disfigures the objects into new collaborative curiosities.
“Animal Intent” is open from January 19 through March 18, 2017. The exhibition is accompanied by two upcoming events on February 11 and March 4th, for more information visit www.apexart.org. Gallery hours Tuesday - Saturday 11 - 6pm.