Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World
14 February – 13 May 2018
Media View: 13 February 2018, 10am – 12pm
Galleries 1, 8 & 9
The Whitechapel Gallery presents a major solo exhibition of American artist Mark Dion, with large-scale installations made between the 1990s to the present, including a new commission created especially for London. Each installation draws attention to characters that observe, conserve or exploit the natural world.
Mark Dion (b. 1961) approaches art by shadowing scientific enquiry, engaging in fieldwork, expeditions and experiments. Performing the role of scientist, explorer, museum curator and archaeologist, Dion examines how knowledge is gathered, interpreted, classified and presented. His research and collections come together as elaborate installations, which combine artefacts, material culture, photographs and documents. His work raises questions concerning the culture of nature and the environment – such as how nature can exist in urban space but also how it is managed and controlled.
Curated by Whitechapel Gallery Director, Iwona Blazwick, Mark Dion begins with a new commission by the artist, to be unveiled in February 2018. Alongside this is a series of Hunting Blinds (2008), inspired by structures used to disguise hunters in the wild. Each is characterised by the personality of an imagined inhabitant, from the glutton or the dandy rococo to the librarian. Viewers are invited to examine the belongings and attributes of their absent owners. The librarian’s hunting blind is well-equipped with shelves full of books, a small armchair and equipment hanging neatly on the walls; while the Dandy delights in the decorative potential of natural objects and curios. In an exploration of hunting as a traditional, but contentious, cultural practice, wall-mounted felt banners made in the style of medieval heraldic standards depicting animals, such as the fox, bear and stag, accompany the installation.
A naturalist’s study, decorated with wallpaper designed by the artist then leads the viewer indoors and into the 19th century. The clues and symbols pictured in photographs, intricate drawings, prints and models may look historic, but they touch on environmental issues of our time.
The exhibition continues with the Bureau for the Centre of the Study for Surrealism and its Legacy, a recreation of a 1920s curator’s office filled with evocative objects, artefacts and specimens from ancient and modern culture. Inspired by Dion’s interactions during a residency at Manchester Museum in 2002, the installation serves as a repository for neglected and unclassifiable objects ranging from photographs to intricate drawings, prints and models. According to the artist this work is designed to “provide a fitting setting for the contemplation and study of Surrealism.”
Tate Thames Dig (1998-2000) is presented in the final rooms as an iconic example of Dion’s participatory practice. During the summer of 1998, two years before the launch of Tate Modern in 2000, teenagers, retirees, artists and historians mudlarked on the foreshores of Millbank and Bankside for artefacts at low tide. Led by Dion’s archaeological approach, they unearthed clay pipes, plastic toys, credit cards and animal bones that have been transformed into this poetic display. Documentary photographs of the beachcombers and tidal flow charts are also exhibited. By combining historic and contemporary finds, the work presents a slice of London’s material history over the centuries.
Notes to Editors
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.
Exhibition curated by Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery with Candy Stobbs, Assistant Curator, Whitechapel Gallery.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated publication including an interview between Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery and Mark Dion and contributions from Petra Lange-Berndt, Chair of Modern and Contemporary Art, University of Hamburg and Gilda Williams, art critic and lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London
Generously supported by
Admission: £12.95 (without Gift Aid). Tickets on sale from 8 November.
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm; Thursdays, 11am – 9pm.
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