CITY SIGHTS: Finding the science-art in New York area art exhibitions
By Julia Buntaine, Editor-in-Chief
Parrish Art Museum
"East End Field Drawings," an exhibit of 93 works by Alexis Rockman
open through January 18th
WATER MILL, NY 9/17/2015-- From October 25, 2015 through January 18, 2016, the Parrish Art Museum will present Alexis Rockman: East End Field Drawings, an exhibition of 93 works on paper by the American artist who adapts an unconventional, ancient technique of depicting images of flora and fauna, while referencing the straightforward approach of a naturalist’s field guide, to explore humanity’s impact on nature. Created with organic matter such as soil and sand gathered at ponds, parks, beaches, and farms on the East End of Long Island, the drawings depict the plants, insects, birds, and animals specific to the area, emphasizing the endangered species that are rapidly disappearing from our world under the pressure of development and construction.
“The Parrish continually seeks out new ways to illuminate the creative process and demonstrate how art and artists can transform our experiences and understanding of the world and how we live in it,” said Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan. “Rockman’s East End Field Drawings are visually seductive and intellectually compelling, providing opportunities for visitors to see and experience a key aspect of our surroundings in the context of what should be our overarching concerns about the future.”
Rockman is perhaps best known for his monumentally scaled, multi-layered paintings—rich depictions of landscapes that might exist in a future impacted by climate change and the influence of genetic engineering on evolution. The works are inspired by futurism, science fiction, and fantasy, yet rooted in the grand Hudson River School landscape tradition. For more than 30 years, Rockman developed his career as a painter, traveling the world and immersing himself in the ecology of a region by collaborating with scientists and field researchers. These experiences become the inspiration for his field drawings, which the artist likens to calligraphy, pictograms, or fossils.
For East End Field Drawings, Rockman researched the region’s ecosystems and met with local environmentalists and ecologists before choosing 18 specific sites. He gathered soil and sand samples from farm fields and Poxabogue Pond in Sagaponack; Hither Hills State Park and Kirk Park Beach in Montauk; and Hook Pond, Cedar Point, and Northwest Harbor in East Hampton, among other locations. Rockman created delicate yet richly dimensional drawings of wildlife, insects, and plant life in his Tribeca studio, naming them, field-guide style, with their English and Latin titles like Mile-a-Minute Vine (Polygonum perfoliatum), Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), and Guineafowl (Numididae).
Rockman’s concept of field drawings began during one of his many travels in the late 1980s and early 1990s with his close friend, the conceptual artist Mark Dion. On a six-week excursion to Guyana, with only paper at hand for art making, the artists pulled mud from the riverbank to use as drawing material. What began as a lark developed for Rockman into a long-standing exploration of creating art with organic materials. He has continued to develop work through this process of collaboration and interviews with scientists, research on ecology and biology, and collection of materials at sites such as an Amazon rainforest, a South African desert, the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, and the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island, New York, as well as in Madagascar and Tasmania.
A 72-page fully illustrated color catalogue accompanies the exhibition, featuring the 93 images on view and an interview between Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan and Alexis Rockman. In keeping with the artist’s commitment to scientific research and field exploration as part of his process, the publication is designed in the style of the 1950s Golden Nature Guides, published by the Golden Books division of the former Western Publishing.
About the Parrish Art Museum
Inspired by the natural setting and artistic life of Long Island’s East End, the Parrish Art Museum illuminates the creative process and how art and artists transform our experiences and understanding of the world and how we live in it. The Museum fosters connections among individuals, art, and artists through care and interpretation of the collection, presentation of exhibitions, publications, educational initiatives, programs, and artists-in-residence. The Parrish is a center for cultural engagement, an inspiration and destination for the region, the nation, and the world.
Read our exclusive interview with Rockman from the December 2014 issue: