Exploration, both physical and artistic, underlies the multi part sculptural projects in the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design
s new summer exhibition, Journeys: Conrad Shawcross and Tavares Strachan, on view from Friday, July 8, 2011 through October 23, 2011.
British artist Conrad Shawcross and Bahamian Tavares Strachan (RISD BFA 03), both young artists in their 30s, separately engage and document a particular geographical locationNew York Citys Gowanus Canal and Nassau, Bahamasin their respective works, paired together in the exhibition.
Using a range of materials and modes of presentation, the projects each reveal how artists employ scientific methods to explore issues of culture, travel, and technology.
These artists recall the historical precedent of the Enlightenment when artist scientists explored uncharted territories to record and understand natural phenomena, says Judith Tannenbaum, Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art.
Shawcross sets off on excursions along over-industrialized and polluted waterways, while Strachan adopts astronomical expertise to engage in space exploration. Like the artist-explorers who once created precise representations of newly encountered geological and biological phenomena, these artists document and represent their journeys through maps, found objects, and material evidence. However, they also create their own objectsa wood rowboat and a glass rocketthat are imbued with appreciation for material form and craftsmanship.
Shawcross Pre-retroscope VI (Gowanus Canal Journey, NY, 2009), is a handmade row boat with a motorized camera track the artist built and used for an expedition of New York Citys contaminated Gowanus Canal in 2009. Together with the boat, his resulting 360-degree panoramic video footage is projected in the gallery. Documentary photographs are also included, as well as a schematic wall drawing of the Gowanus Canal.
The beach near Strachans hometown of Nassau is the site of an experimental rocket launch in Blast Off (2009). Strachanwho trained as a cosmonautsets out to discover what happens when he sends his rocket, made of glass from island sand and powered by sugarcane, into the heavens.
The rocket exemplifies the artists ongoing quest to explore infinite space, while maintaining a connection with the natural materials of his homeland. After the launch and subsequent crash, Strachan painstakingly searched for the rockets broken shards and reassembled them for display, recalling the way in which skeletons are displayed in natural history and archeological museums. Photographs and a video, Rocket Launch (2009), by the artist, document the experiment and become component parts of the project.