Alexis Rockman is a successful New York-based painter who is also tremendously popular with the clientele of the Amok bookstore. The reasons for this are easy to see. Aside from a striking technical fluency, Rockman’s work samples a categorical pool which is in many ways similar to the one that gave birth to Amok—R&D, Surrealism, Pulp Sci-Fi, Freaks!—it’s all here. If Hieronymus Bosch were commissioned to produce didactic panels for the Museum of Natural History, they might look something like this. Colliding various established painterly genres such as the still life and landscape with the instructional schematics of scientific display, Rockman meticulously renders tableaux that effectively reconstitute the abstract, theoretical realm of models, graphs and cross sections as organic matter, wholly susceptible to the cycles of decay and regeneration. And that’s not all—as a crowning touch, these naturalist allegories are submitted to the grotesque and paranoid machinations of a budget-horror mise-en-scène. Genealogical trees are turned upside-down by natural forces; dioramas spring suddenly to life and total zoological chaos ensues. By way of interspecies copulation, mutation, gene-splicing or plain old Frankenstein surgery, every taxonomic, phylogenic boundary is systematically transgressed. The result is an exploration of evolutionary anarchy at its most basic and most sophisticated levels.
Second Nature presents a comprehensive overview of this troubling and darkly humorous oeuvre, generously illustrated with sharp, color plates of the paintings, plus an additional selection of source materials from the artist’s own photographic archive. An unusually informative series of critical texts by such science- and art-world luminaries as Stephen Jay Gould and Douglas Blau completes this attractive package. JT
Publisher: University Galleries
Paperback: 98 pages