Gallery Hopping: “Naturalia” Brings Wonder and the Sublime to Paul Kasmin Gallery

It reveals our evolving natural world and its representations.

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Install shot of Naturalia at Paul Kasmin Gallery
Install shot of Naturalia at Paul Kasmin Gallery
Install shot of Naturalia at Paul Kasmin Gallery
Install shot of Naturalia at Paul Kasmin Gallery
Install shot of Naturalia at Paul Kasmin Gallery
Install shot of Naturalia at Paul Kasmin Gallery

The work of naturalists became essential during the Renaissance and the 19th century. These artists and explorers had the great responsibility of showing Europe a different world—a new world—with their representations. Through them, nature was admired and feared; it was perceived as both exotic and mysterious.

At Paul Kasmin Gallery, “Naturalia” revisits the work of these Old Masters while juxtaposing new takes on nature’s life-cycle; it focuses on decay, preservation, predation, and rebirth. And these themes re-emerge with contemporary conceptual artists: the exhibition includes works such as Damien Hirst’s Devastation, 2008, which at first glance looks like an impenetrable mass of blackness, but when examined more closely, features thousands of fly carcasses that radiate with the room’s light. It reminds the spectator of the beauty and frailty of life.

Elsewhere, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s video installation Still Life from 2001 explores the hypnotizing decomposition of a basket of fruit. Taking studied depictions (such as Elias van den Broeck’s) a step forward, there’s nothing still about it.

Restless minds find a point of conversation again with images like Nicolaas Struyk’s insects, or Otto Marseus van Schrieck’s nocturnal landscapes, which date to the 17th century, as well as a present-day contribution to the original genre with Fred Tomaselli’s Esopus Creek Bug Drop, 1996.

Another highlight: Walton Ford’s monumental Loss of the Lisbon Rhinoceros from 2008 is exceptional when paired with the very drawing that inspired his work, by Albrecht Dürer. The rare Indian creature actually saw its premature demise during a tragic 15th century voyage to Italy.

Curated by Danny Moynihan, known for his satirical novel Boogie-Woogie, and in collaboration with Sotheby’s Old Masters Department, the conversation spans six centuries. The show is proof that our planet is constantly evolving, along with our representation and understanding of it.

“Naturalia” is on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 Tenth Avenue, January 19–March 4, 2017.

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