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Trouble in Abington, er, Paradise


fordapotheosisThe theme of Abington Curator Amy Lipton‘s innaugural show, “Trouble in Paradise,” is loss. The context is the environment. That said, the thrust of the show is not one of overwhelming sorrow or shock but one of questioning and quiet observation. The works are uniformly interesting; some are beautiful, and at least one has lots of edgy atmosphere. And by the end of my looking, I thought that by repeating its theme, tweaking it this way and that the show succeeded as a visual essay on the fragile state of air, water, plants, animals, birds, bees and humans in the 21st Century. We really ought to think a little harder about this globe of ours and what a mess it’s in. (top image is “Apotheosis of the Successor Culture” by Dan Ford. You can’t tell here but the apogee element is a gas station, seen atop a hill way in the distance.)
ford, dan
garnett, joy
“Trouble” is a gentle show. An exhibit of Bernd and Hilla Becher photographs of coke processing plants — or Steven Benson‘s photos of the Three Gorges project in China, or Sebastiao Salgado‘s photographs of ships being dismantled in India would be more horrifying to look at than anything here.

But the show’s not out to horrify. It’s out to steer and raise issues and to introduce the idea that there are many many artists out there who are concerned about our earth. This show alone has fifteen artists and you know it’s the tip of the tip of the iceberg. (image is Ford‘s “Manifest Destiny,” a beautiful landscape painted on a flattened Colt 45 beer can)
rockman, alexis
There’s one image here that stands out. It has a kind of shock value the other works — even one by the eco-hysterical Alexis Rockman (shown below left, Rockman’s “Prairie”) — don’t have. That’s Joy Garnett‘s “Jog,” (right) a simple work based on a news photo of a jogger getting some exercise during the first Gulf War. The jogger is running with a mask on his face and in the background are the burning oil fields of Kuwait. The sly, subliminal, run for the hills it’s the apocalypse coming message works perfectly with the fast, brushy atmosphere of the work. Garnett, whose blog, Newsgrist, is on my bookmarks, has, without hysteria and with a lot of smart geo-political positioning, created a work that is a modern day Albert Pinkham Ryder Death riding through the land painting.

mumford, steve
It’s man and nature everywhere in this show. And the works are to a piece worth the trip out to Abington. The big surprise is Steve Mumford‘s painting, “Midnight Sun,” (below right) a kind of N. C. Wyeth does Jack London with a twist — a shiny illustration gone weird even by fiction standards. Mumford, you may remember, is the artist whose diaristic drawings from the current Iraq war, called Bagdad Journal, appears regularly at artnet magazine.

Anyway enough now I’ll say more when I review the show — which is up through may 28 — in the Weekly. My only twinge of disappointment is that one artist, Brian Alfred, a painter whose show Libby and I had seen last year at Max Protetch (see Libby’s post and mine which is mostly about Ann Craven but gets in a little about Alfred at the end) couldn’t be in the show. I was excited about seeing his work and an early press release had him in the list but Curator Lipton told me that Alfred had just sold out a show at Protech and had nothing for the Abington exhibit! Good news for the young artist, bad news for us. (Go to Protetch and check this guy out. He’s pretty great.)