010210: Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin: Walton Ford – Bestiarium

Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin: Walton Ford – Bestiarium The Animal time-machine While viewing Walton Ford’s huge monkey painting “The Sensorium” (2003, 152,4 x 302,3 cm) and keeping European animal paintings of the 19th century in mind, one is reminded of the Gründerzeit painter Paul Meyerheim (1842-1915), whose “Monkey Banquet” is displayed at the Harvard Museum in Boston. The comparison between Ford’s painting and that of Meyerheim clearly points to the parallels as well as the differences of this genre. Ford, born 1960 in Larchmont in the state of New York, and who now lives in Massachusetts, was fascinated by the works displayed at the Museum of Natural History in New York and by the works created by John James Audubon (1785 – 1851), the famous ornithologist and animal illustrator. With his large-format paintings rendered in the style of his inspirational sources, Ford developed a unique style. Despite being a modern animal painter he is equally determined to depict his objects in great detail, and like the old masters he narrates civilisation- and cultural critical stories with these remarkably large format aquarelle paintings. It is not a coincidence that Ford’s monumental polar bear scene in “Novaya Zemlya Still Life” (2006) resembles Edwin Landseer’s painting “Man proposes, God disposes” (1863-64), which brings Benjamin Franklin’s catastrophic polar expedition back to memory. The allegoric moment of Ford’s animal paintings cannot be overlooked. The allegory of the battle for survival of the Tasmanian wolf in “The Island” (2009), a painting composed like a triptych, reminds of the extinction of the Australian mammal. The settlers discredited the predator as a “gory hunter” - after they had introduced sheep into the region. The paintings are set in contrast to historical texts and reports by contemporary witnesses thereby casting an interesting light on the relationship of humans and animals over the course of history. The curators rightfully describe Ford’s work as truly singular in contemporary art. It is undoubtedly remarkable and his paintings, a mixed technique of aquarelle and gouache colours, ink and pencil on paper, surprises with its loosely set brush strokes. Only at a distance do the feathers and fur attain their vitality. But after a while, the question arises whether the artistic media used is really “contemporary”. Does this 19th century form of animal painting offer anything new regarding the condition of our planet? Is the use of an old and tried form of art not falling prey to a mannerist style? Whatever the answers may be, the exhibition offers unusual insights for all those who are interested in animal depictions and/or contemporary US painting. By Kai Artinger Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin 10557 Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 50-51, until 24.05.10 http://www.hamburgerbahnhof.de

Hamburger Bahnhof - Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart
10557 Berlin, Invalidenstraße 50- 51
Tel: +49 30 266424242
Öffnungszeiten: Di, Mi, Fr10-18, Do 10-20, Sa, So 11-18 h

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