Date of Show: October 16 - December 14, 2003
Curated by: Marion M. Callis and Joseph T. Smolinski
Cosmorama began as an investigation of landscape as a subject in new art. Landscape as an art motive is an all too often abused cliché -- a sad fate for a genre explored by ancient Roman fresco painters, reborn in the youthful drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, and a vehicle for the most revolutionary art styles of the last three centuries, including the epic late 20th century work of Smithson, De Maria, and Mendieta. What could landscape still do, we wondered, in a technology-centered society that disenfranchises us from it?
Robert Smithson’s 1967 article, “The Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey,”* walks the line between diary entry and tourism advertisement, as the artist documented "monuments" scattered throughout an industrial suburban landscape. For Smithson, road construction machinery evoked “mechanical dinosaurs stripped of their skin”; a sewage-pumping derrick became a “monumental fountain”; and a child’s sandbox suggested the evolution of continents, where “every grain of sand was a dead metaphor that equaled timelessness.” His “suburban Odyssey” revealed the entropy of a place where progress struggles to erase history.
The three artists of Cosmorama employ a similar metaphor. Patrick Jackson focuses on the ebb and flow of natural forces, with inherent growth and decay running amok. In Cosmorama, he converts blank white interior space into a miniaturized, cavernous landscape, hovering somewhere between creation and destruction. Kasper Kovitz’ work centers on a heroic character of his own making, the Lost Explorer. His epic tale begins with a fictional landfall on an uninhabited stretch of coastline and proceeds into land- and cityscapes heretofore unknown to him, with each discovery documented using materials salvaged along the way. Finally, Pawel Wojtasik’s manipulated video footage takes an otherworldly and humbling view into the everyday landscape of consumption, and questions the wisdom of our attempts to interfere with the inexorable processes of nature.
These three artists’ visions into the micro- and macrocosms of the environment encourage us to leave our common assumptions at the door and rediscover the world around us.
Marion M. Callis and Joseph T. Smolinski
*"The Monuments of Passaic." Artforum 7, no. 4:48-51, December 1967.