Thursday, December 10, 2009

Walton Ford: new work, Nov12-Dec 23

Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 10th ave

I think Walton Ford is a pretty interesting artist. This is the second show of his I've seen at the Kasmin Gallery, and the work may not be for everyone, but it's definitely memorable. Ford makes large highly detailed watercolor and ink paintings on paper. There are only 6 works in the show, but because of their size and their nuanced intricacy any more would be overkill. I hesitate a little in calling them paintings, because they clearly reference natural history and wildlife illustrations, like those of John James Audubon. He even uses the same kind of captions describing the animals and events in the margins around the images used in those wildlife illustrations, complete with (I assume) fictional dates. Ford's art is, however much more violent and nightmarish in subject matter than the work he's referencing. He appears to be trying to expand this tradition of painting to include human fears and fantasies of the natural world.

What is most immediately engaging about the work is the contrast between Ford's meticulous, virtuosic rendering, and the horrific and absurdist nature of the things being rendered. As a painter I can't help but be drawn to how Ford has mastered a certain genre of cool scientific illustration, and distorted it in such a way that he can apply it to this fantastically disturbing world where animals are tearing each other and in some cases humans apart. In "The Island" a huge pile of wolf like thylacines sink into the ocean, while devouring dozens of sheep. In another image two bengal tigers attack a lion in what turns into a bloody massacre. In some cases the animals appear prepared to commit suicide. A guerilla stands at the foot of a dead hunter holding his twisted rifle at its own head. Is it trying to blow its brains out, or just playing with a new toy? A baboon looks prepared to hang itself next to a rather stylish outdoor breakfast table. Or, is it auto erotic asphyxiation? As best I can tell, the content of Ford's work is the relationship between human culture and animal nature. Or maybe it's the other way around.


  1. Wow! This is a show I would like to see. I like illustrative work.

  2. You should. It's pretty wild. Plus, you're like three blocks away.