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Birdspace: A Post-Audubon Artists Aviary
Seeking to Know Nature and Ourselves
Hudson River Museum October 9, 2004 - January 2, 2005

YONKERS, NY, August 25 - Icons of freedom and spirits of the air, birds provide thrilling images for artists seeking to understand life as we know it. Birdspace, appealing to those fascinated with the bird's beauty and flight, is dedicated to bird imagery by contemporary artists. The show, which opens at the Hudson River Museum on October 9, includes paintings, photography, sculpture, mixed media, video and installations. Birdspace shows the bird's archetypal appeal and new directions in bird-oriented art.

Work of 50 Contemporary Artists in Birdspace
From Les Cristensen's pair of silver wings made from thousands of steel spoons that sprout from the gallery walls to Ernesto Pujol's photographs of canaries displayed near their tiny cages, the Birdspace presents concepts that touch humanity. Birdspace artists can see the shape and plumage of birds as extraordinary objects for realistic illustration, as did the famous artist-ornithologist John James Audubon, yet they also regard the bird as a metaphor for human struggle.
Among the 50 artists in the show are Jacqueline Bishop, Ross Bleckner, Walton Ford, Adam Fuss, Roni Horn, Ernesto Pujol, Hunt Slonem, Kiki Smith, Fred Tomaselli, Thomas Woodruff and Nina Katchadourian.
No birds were harmed in the creation of any of the works in Birdspace. Quite the reverse, the artists are vitally interested in ecology. You experience the brutality that caused the extinction of the passenger pigeon, as you enter, knee-deep in feathers, the dark corridor of Los Angeles artist Jackie Apple's installation Aviary of the Lost. The corridor walls bear the names of extinct birds. The sound of their flapping wings and the recitative of bird names, now gone, fills the passage.
David Rubin, Curator of Visual Arts, The New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), who is the show's curator said, "The artists who use birds as subjects and symbols seem attracted to them because they are microcosms of ourselves who seemingly have greater access then we do to some of the nooks and crannies of our universe. … Some of the work is poetic, some will make you cry, and some will make you laugh out loud. You'll never look at a bird the same way again."

Birdspace Illuminates Humanity, Mortality, Identity, and Satire
Birdspace images fall into four groups. In "The Humanity of All Living Things," artists seek to touch nature in a technology-dominated world. Massachusetts-based Walton Ford makes watercolors and prints about animals in peril, their plight symbolizing our own. In Boca Grande, a heron, based on Aesop's fable the Frog King,
eats the very frogs who asked for a king. Says Ford, "We have more kings like that in the world today than we need." The group "Mortality, Remembrance, Loss and Transformation" links birds to our own mortality. Kate Breakey hand-colors her black and white photographs, Small Deaths, to give dead birds she finds a memorial in a format that recalls Old Master portraits. Artists, such as Roni Horn, use birds to explore sexual identity in the group "Identity and Autobiography." Horn, who grew up with an androgynous name, photographed a pair of stuffed birds to challenge viewers to discern differences. Lastly, in "Satirical Gaming," artists see the bird as ever present in our culture and play with viewer perceptions. John Salvest's installation is an example of this humor. He poses artificial birds on high-tension wires to form the letters "FLY," accompanied by fake bird sounds.
This exhibition has been sponsored in part by AVR Reality Company and The Bafflin Foundation.
Birdspace was organized by the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), curated by David S. Rubin, and toured under the auspices of Pamela Auchincloss/Arts Management. The 104-page exhibition catalog, Birdspace, published by CAC and featuring 50 color plates with an essay by David Rubin, is available for purchase at the Hudson River Museum.




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