MIAMI, FL.- Miami Art Museum
presents Mark Dions complete South Florida Wildlife Rescue Unit, a large-scale installation that focuses on the Everglades and human attempts to control the South Florida ecosystem. The installation is on view from March 11 through August 28, 2011 in the Anchor Gallery, an area of the Permanent Collection featuring regularly changing presentations of large scale works. The South Florida Wildlife Rescue Unit was originally commissioned by MAM in 2006 and subsequently acquired by the Museum.
Interweaving the diverse disciplines of art, science, ecology, history, and archeology, Dions project consists of three parts, corresponding to the three major periods of Everglades history: exploration (late 1700s mid 1800s); exploitation (mid-1800s early 20th century); and preservation and restoration (mid-20th century the present).
Dions installation tells the story of the various mentalities and motivations, both positive and negative, which have determined our history with Floridas wilderness, said Peter Boswell, Miami Art Museum assistant director for programs/senior curator. The artist has said that his work is not really about nature, but about the consideration of ideas of nature. His project resonates with the environmental changes the South Florida region has undergone and the efforts that are being made to stem and counteract those changes.
The largest component of the installation features a facsimile of a vehicle and equipment belonging to an imaginary agency that rushes into vulnerable ecosystems to save threatened plants and animals: the South Florida Wildlife Rescue Unit. This portion of the installation serves as a tongue-in-cheek how-to guide for would-be conservationists, and ironically represents the dreams of policymakers decisive actions, while also saluting past and current grassroots activism efforts.
The second portion of the installation is a series of reproductions of vintage photographs taken in the early decades of the 20th century by John Kunkel Small, a curator of the New York Botanical Garden who identified numerous plant species in the Everglades and authored a scathing book entitled From Eden to Sahara: Floridas Tragedy, which documented the changes wrought by dredging and draining the area.
The third portion is comprised of a vitrine containing artifacts, including a book of pressed specimens, the Herbarium Perrine (Marine Algae), purportedly belonging to 19th century botanist and early Florida settler Henry Perrine. Perrine was partly responsible for the overzealous introduction of foreign plant species to the area, which now poses one of the gravest threats to the ecosystem. Like the installations vehicle, the vitrine and its components are a fiction invented by the artist.
Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. His work deals with the probing of knowledge systems that underlie scientific research and museum displays, acquisitions, and classifications. He received an honorary Ph.D from the University of Hartford and is a recipient of the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award. Dion studied at the School of Visual Arts and the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in New York, and the University of Hartford, Connecticut. Dion has showed in solo exhibitions at a number of venues, including the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2005), The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004), and the University of Tokyo Museum, Tokyo (2002).