Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World at Whitechapel Gallery

Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World at Whitechapel Gallery

14 February – 13 May ‘18

Explorer, collector, activist and conjuror of theatrical environments American artist Mark Dion (b.1961) has travelled through rainforests and rubbish dumps to reveal the wonder and fragility of life on earth. Dion uses specimens – natural and manmade – to make uncanny representations of these environments. His drawings, sculptures and installations draw on the techniques of scientific enquiry and museum display; and on the telling of natural histories.

We embark on a journey through a sequence of installations created between 2000 and the present. The exhibition begins with The Library for the Birds of London (2018), a new commission continuing a series of aviaries Dion has created since 1993. The roomy sanctuary is a temporary home to 22 zebra finches, which are well-known for being social creatures. Visitors are invited into the aviary, which has an apple tree at its centre, referencing the tree of life. Over 600 books devoted to ornithology, environmentalism, literature and the natural sciences surround the birds.

A scholar’s study invites us to unravel intricate drawings and models; while the Bureau for the Centre of the Study for Surrealism and its Legacy displays the strange magic of obsolete things. The muddy banks of the Thames have also yielded their treasures for poetic display in a gigantic cabinet; while The Wonder Workshop displays the ghosts of animals and instruments, many of them extinct and obsolescent. Each immersive environment is also a habitat, evoking the characters that observe, conserve or exploit the natural world.

Mark Dion was born in 1961 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, US and lives in New York with his wife and frequent collaborator Dana Sherwood. He studied at the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, Connecticut (1981-82), which awarded him a BFA in 1986 and an honorary doctorate in 2002. From 1983 to 1984 he attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and then completed the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program (1984-85). He is an Honorary Fellow of Falmouth University, UK (2014) and has an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (Ph.D.) from The Wagner Free Institute of Science in Philadelphia (2015). Dion has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001); The Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2007) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lucida Art Award (2008). He has had major exhibitions at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2017); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2016); Natural History Museum, London (2007); Miami Art Museum, Miami (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003) and Tate Gallery, London (1999). For over two decades Dion has worked in the public realm in a wide range of scales, from architecture projects to print interventions in newspapers. Some of his most recent large-scale public projects include David Fairchild’s Laboratory, a permanent installation commissioned for The Kampong, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Coconut Grove, FL (2016); Den, a permanent installation commissioned for the Norway National Tourist Route (2012) and Neukom Vivarium, a permanent outdoor installation and learning lab for the Olympic Sculpture Park commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum (2006); Dion has also produced large-scale permanent commissions for Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany and the Montevideo Biennale in Uruguay (both 2012). His work is held in the collections of Centre George Pompidou, Paris; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts; The New York Public Library, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York and Tate, London. Dion is co-director of Mildred’s Lane, an innovative visual art education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.

http://www.whitechapelgallery.org






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