James Prosek is Edward E. Elson Artist-in-Residence at the Addison for the fall of 2013
Taking inspiration from the long tradition of natural history painting—from animal depictions on cave walls to the works of Albrecht Durer, William Blake, and John James Audubon—as well as contemporary influences as diverse as Lee Bontecou, Mark Dion, Martin Puryear, and Eero Saarinen, James Prosek’s work questions accepted notions of how we understand and interpret the natural world. Examining the ways in which we name and order nature, the systems we use to try to harness nature, our classifications and taxonomies, and the limitations of language in describing biological diversity, Prosek invites us to reflect on what these systems say about our culture, our priorities, and our values.
Ranging from the compellingly realistic to the inventively fanciful, the exhibition includes meticulously rendered paintings, monumental watercolors, and taxidermied specimens, many of them referencing the artist’s extensive travel, collecting trips, and biological expeditions to places as distant and diverse as Suriname and Kyrgyzstan. The exhibition also includes wall murals created especially for this installation.
Exquisitely crafted, frequently witty, and always thought-provoking, Prosek’s art invites viewers to engage with realms that science cannot quantify or solve—those spaces in between fact and folklore, science and myth, real and imagined.
James Prosek is the Edward E. Elson Artist in Residence for fall 2013.
This exhibition was generously supported by Edward P. Bass (Phillips Academy Class of 1963) on his 50th reunion (by The Bass Foundation).
Ongoing through Winter 2014
Drawing from the Addison Gallery's permanent collection, Natural Selections complements the exhibition, James Prosek: The Spaces in Between, in which Prosek, 2013 Edward E. Elson artist-in-residence at the Addison, raises questions about how we recognize and interpret the natural world. Whether a treasured masterpiece or a lesser-known work, each object in Natural Selections has been chosen to evidence the artist’s relation to the natural environment.
Nature imposes itself in small and grand ways in the works assembled here—a fragment of sylvan landscape or seascape glimpsed through the window behind the sitter, a panoramic landscape of grand intention spread across the canvas, a meticulously detailed segment of woods or bountiful garden or animal specimen. While the scientist offers us a structured framework and systematic ordering of natural phenomena, it is through the lens of the imaginative artist we learn to see and appreciate our natural world—light, land, sky, water, flora, fauna, and the cosmos in which we live.
Generous support for this exhibition was provided by the Mollie Bennett Lupe and Garland M. Lasater Exhibitions Fund.