William Christenberry, Kudzu with Storm Cloud, near Akron, Alabama, 1981, Chromogenic color print, 16 x 22", Courtesy Pace/MacGill, New York.

Werner Herzog, still from Lessons of Darkness, 1992, 16 mm film, sound, color, 52 min., Courtesy Werner Herzog Film GmbH, Munich.

After Nature, Future Landscape in the Time of Human Empire

Dana Schutz, Man Eating His Own Chest, 2005, Oil on canvas, 54 x 42", Courtesy Zach Feuer Gallery, New York.

Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled, 2007, Taxidermied horse skin, fiberglass resin, 118-1/8 x 66-7/8 x 31-1/2", Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.


New Museum
235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002

After Nature
July 17-September 21, 2008

Unfolding as a visual novel, After Nature depicts a future landscape of wilderness and ruins. It is a story of abandonment, regression, and rapture — an epic of humanity coming apart under the pressure of obscure forces and not-so-distant environmental disasters. This exhibition brings together an international and multigenerational group of contemporary artists, filmmakers, writers, and outsiders, many of whom are showing in a New York museum for the first time. Organized by Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Exhibitions, the show spans three floors and includes over 90 works.

Part dystopian fantasy, part ethnographic museum of a lost civilization that eerily resembles our own, After Nature brings together artists and artworks that possess a strange, prophetic intensity. Departing from the fictional documentaries of filmmaker Werner Herzog, the exhibition is an anthology of visions and epiphanies — a hallucinated panorama of a world on the verge of disappearance. When seen in this context, Zoe Leonard’s giant sculpture of a crippled tree, Maurizio Cattelan’s fallen horse, Reverend Howard Finster’s delirious sermon cards, and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s apocalyptic finger paintings resonate like a requiem for a vanishing planet.

Fikret Atay, Roger Ballen, Robert Kusmirowski, Diego Perrone, and Arthur Zmijewski seem fascinated by mystic apparitions, arcane rites, and spiritual illuminations, while artists as diverse as Allora and Calzadilla, Nancy Graves, and William Christenberry depict a universe in which the traces of humans have been erased and new ecological systems struggle to find a precarious balance.

The works of Huma Bhabha, Berlinde De Bruyckere, and Thomas Schütte share an archaic quality. Their magical realism transforms sculpture into myth-making and gives birth to a cast of fantastical creatures, including sylvan beings, totemic figures, and neo-primitive idols. These elements find life in Tino Sehgal’s intricate choreographies and living sculptures: for the duration of the exhibition interpreters and dancers carry out gestures that could be described as mysterious rituals and states of ecstasy. Recuperating ancient techniques, Pawel Althamer uses grass and animal intestines to produce vulnerable sculptures and puppets for a new form of storytelling. Other works, like the animations of Nathalie Djuberg, the imaginary maps of Roberto Cuoghi, or the video confessions of Erik Van Lieshout, guide viewers to the edge of the earth, taking us for a walk in the fictional woods of our near future, while expressing a sincere preoccupation for the world as it is now.

The exhibition includes work by Allora and Calzadilla, Pawel Althamer, Fikret Atay, Roger Ballen, Huma Bhabha, Maurizio Cattelan, William Christenberry, Roberto Cuoghi, Bill Daniel, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Nathalie Djurberg, Reverend Howard Finster, Nancy Graves, Werner Herzog, Robert Kusmirowski, Zoe Leonard, Klara Liden, Erik van Lieshout, Diego Perrone, Thomas Schütte, Dana Schutz, Tino Sehgal, August Strindberg, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, and Arthur Zmijewski.

Pawel Althamer, Pawel and Monika, 2002, photo courtesy of Phe artist.

Nancy Graves, still from 200 Stills at 60 Frames, 1970, 16mm film, color, silent, 8 min., Courtesy the Nancy Graves Foundation, New York.