Natural Selection

Group Exhibition

September 8 - October 7, 2006

Natural Selection
Natural Selection
Natural Selection

Natural Selection

Natural Selection , 2006
installation view
Paul Morrison Calathidium 2006 silkscreen ed. 45, 38 3/8 x 28 3/4 inches








"As far as I can tell, the beauty of research lies in its functional ability as a mechanism that can unite an idea developing within the self to the outside world. When applied to the practice of an artist this idea can be viewed as a quest for the next essential image around the next essential corner. When applied to the practice of a curator this idea can be viewed as a quest for the next essential concept around the next essential corner. Image and concept are interchangeable. So too can be artist and curator.

I wonder about the role of fate and circumstance in the act of scientific research versus the artist’s choice of subject or a path of curatorial inquiry: the structured networks of branch and stem and leaf that make plants all so different and yet so all alike.

The consideration of subject matter can sometimes be viewed as an array of dots that at some point cohere into a pattern. Discovering the pattern comes as a result of connecting the dots. When I came across Cy Twombly’s Natural History, Part II, I was one month and two artists into the five months and seven artists worth of research that resulted in Natural Selection. With the discovery of Twombly’s botanical print his work as I knew it had been transformed and the title and concept for this show became clear.

In early June I contacted Jay Isaac to find out what he was up to. He had recently vacated Toronto for St John’s, New Brunswick, to spend the summer in his hometown. He told me that he was making observational paintings in gouache on paper of trees and plant life. I told him about the show I was working on and some of the artists I was thinking about. Shortly thereafter I was bound for Switzerland and the art fair in Basel where I encountered the work of mid-career British artist Paul Morrison. I found paintings in two stands and a series of new silkscreens in a third. Attracted to his work in general I became absorbed by the silkscreens and the use of 15th and 16th century botanical woodblock prints as source material. And I became aware of the deep horizon lines, an observation that would later influence their formally juxtaposed placement in the show with Isaacs’ flora-laced landscapes.

There are several curatorial arcs that can be traced and retraced when considering the functions of time in this show. There is the timeline for the works themselves (1975-2006, and back to the 15th century in the case of Morrison’s source material) and of the artists themselves, from Jay Isaac through generations to Cy Twombly. There is the idea of subject matter withstanding the test of time, and of artists and their relative commercial and critical successes over the spans of their careers, to which ideas we bring the forces of economy, both intellectual and of commerce, and the contemplation of Darwin and his survival of the fittest. And then there are the cultures and the borders, from Britain, Canada, Italy and the United States, and again that which makes things so different and then so all alike."

-Paul Petro, 2006