Museum’s First Solo Exhibition of a Contemporary Artist to Feature 10 Newly-Commissioned Large-Scale Watercolors and Panoramic Painting
Opening May 27, 2023
Mystic, Conn. (April 3, 2023) – Mystic Seaport Museum is pleased to present Alexis Rockman: Oceanus, an exhibition of newly-commissioned, marine ecologically-focused watercolors and a central panoramic painting by Alexis Rockman. The exhibition will be on view from Memorial Day Weekend, May 27, 2023, and will feature Oceanus, an 8-by-24-foot panoramic oil painting, in addition to ten large-scale watercolors.
Since his early color field paintings on canvas in 1985, Rockman has used natural history as a basis for exploring climate change and the biodiversity crisis. Drawing from natural histories of the past, Rockman confronts possibilities of a dystopian future. In Alexis Rockman: Oceanus, the artist looks above and beneath the ocean’s surface to examine critical environmental, therefore social, issues of our past, present, and what the future may hold. In saturated colors, Rockman depicts the development of marine technologies over time towards increased exploitation of the world’s ocean, both the forced and intentional ocean passages of people, the introduction of invasive marine life through human activity, coastal fragility in a changing climate, and the ongoing cultural fascination with the unknown and underexplored deep ocean.
Alexis Rockman: Oceanus depicts a cautionary vision of a dreamlike yet cynical climate worldview. A world beneath the ocean’s surface is reflected in cascading shades of blue and green, populated by sea creatures that fill the canvas in dynamic and exquisite detail. Upon closer examination, these beautiful otherworldly scenes are revealed as polluted and over exploited, with ships looming above through dark skies marred by oil rigs and a tsunami wave crashing towards the viewer.
Drawing from Rockman’s tradition of looking to history to examine the future, Oceanus features depictions of twenty-two vessels, sixteen of which were inspired by models of watercraft in the Museum’s collection. The boats and ships presented help to show the history of human activity in relation to the ocean, including their direct ties to the exploitation of resources in the world’s waters. In Rockman’s own words,
“The works in this show will tell the story of humankind’s indelible relationship with the ocean and the connections between the sea and our own survival. The project will probe this complex story through the Museum’s collections and the history of the oceans and their people.”
Cast in an ethereal luminescent light, Rockman’s twelve watercolors depict a future sea in a half state of survival. A jellyfish drifts by the outline of a sunken truck and house in Tropical Island, while marine species invasions are enabled by floating plastics across oceans. The works suggest a bittersweet adaptability: survival of the natural world among toxic conditions that could have been prevented with proper action and human recognition.
At Mystic Seaport Museum, the nation’s leading maritime Museum, the exhibition is representative of a dedication to spreading awareness of the issues our oceans face. Oceanus will also serve as the anchor in a Museum-wide initiative to educate visitors on marine invasive species.
[Alexis Rockman: Oceanus will coincide with a solo exhibition at Sperone Westwater, and will be followed by Mark Dion and Alexis Rockman: Journey to Nature’s Underworld at The Bruce Museum.]
Alexis Rockman: Oceanus will be accompanied by extensive programming and companion exhibits on marine species invasions, blue technology, and sustainable fishing, as well as new riverside exhibitions. A 160-page publication by Rizzoli and Mystic Seaport Museum will also be presented alongside the exhibition, bringing together essays on the arts, humanities, and ocean science.
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About Mystic Seaport Museum
Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime Museum. Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past, the Museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, CT, and include a recreated New England coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. For more information, please visit mysticseaport.org and follow the Museum on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.