A Complicated Dominion: Nature and New Political Narratives

June 12 - August 16, 2008
SFAC Gallery, Main Gallery

Artists: Tiffany Bozic (Oakland, CA), James Drake (Santa Fe, NM), Leiv Fagereng (Portland, OR), Walton Ford (Great Barrington, MA) and Tara Tucker (San Francisco, CA).
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” -Henry David Thoreau

Our dominion is complicated and comes with profound responsibility. Humankind has become adept at leveraging natural resources and scientific advances to not only ensure our survival, but also to support and spread various political agendas. Along the road we have developed life-enhancing technologies and become more widely informed about the necessity of our participation in conservation and preservation efforts, while on the other hand we have seriously damaged the earth and performed atrocious acts of inhumanity. Looking forward, it is abundantly clear that we must manage long-term strategies for sustainable development and make sure that decisions about how we control the earth’s resources, wildlife, and each other are not our undoing.

The works in A Complicated Dominion depict an unnatural collision of culture and nature, demonstrating through the device of allegory our attempts to come to terms with contemporary responsibilities and attitudes toward the ever-evolving circumstances of our interdependent existence. A formal dinner is set for a pack of feral pigs. Cuttlefish are corralled into a perfect circle. A squirrel personifies Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols. Through graceful and often humorous means, each of the five exhibiting artists share their varied political viewpoints, while also provoking broader lines of questioning about our environmental, and geo- and sociopolitical values.

Formal concerns are at the fore, as all of the artists in A Complicated Dominion employ beauty as a strategy to entice the viewer’s gaze. “Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass,” Anton Chekhov famously pondered.  The exhibited works, which include paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and video, are vivid and exquisitely executed, with nods to John James Audubon, 17th century Dutch still life painting and scientific illustration. However, the artists force their varied creature-subjects and postmodern narratives into the darker artistic territories of surrealism and satire.