East 82nd Street, 2007, painting from Alexis Rockman's American Icons series depicting future landscapes ravaged by climate change" /> East 82nd Street, 2007, painting from Alexis Rockman's American Icons series depicting future landscapes ravaged by climate change" />

By Alexis Rockman

Hot Times in the Old Town

East 82nd Street, 2007, oil on wood, 80 x 68 in., from Alexis Rockman's American Icons series depicting future landscapes ravaged by climate change. Courtesy Alexis Rockman

“None of us were prepared for the sight of the Louisiana Superdome lapped by floodwaters and with strips of its roof peeled back by the winds of Hurricane Katrina. In that image we glimpsed the predicament of our moment, a human world newly and suddenly vulnerable to the forces of a changed planet. But if we’d been looking at the paintings made over the last two decades by Alexis Rockman, we’d at least have had some practice in how to see it. In an era when artists have obsessed mostly about the fractures within human society — class, gender, race — Rockman has been among the very few trying to understand the deep, mysterious and crucial cleavage between the human and natural worlds. He is, in fact, one of the few philosophers working this critical terrain.” — from Bill McKibben, “The Present Future: Paintings for a Hot Planet,” Orion Magazine, January/February 2006

“The American Icons paintings are as specific as their subject is far-reaching. Recognizable emblems of patriotism such as the U.S. Capitol and Mount Rushmore, bastions of frivolity and greed such as Las Vegas and Hollywood, and tourist meccas such as Disney World all suffer the same leveling fate when it comes to the status-blind and whimsical response of our planet. The Capitol building looks like a wedding cake, several weeks after the party’s ended. The St. Louis Arch has been strangled by invasive kudzu. The esteemed profiles chiseled into Mount Rushmore — including that of Theodore Roosevelt, the father of modern conservation in the United States — are up to their chins in murky water.” — from Dorothy Spears, “Introduction,” Big Weather/American Icons (Leo Koenig Gallery, 2006)

Alexis Rockman's work is in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and London's Saatchi Collection. He is currently contributing to the production of Ang Lee’s film Life of Pi.

Posted in: Art, Cities + Places, Environment

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Comments [3]
Rockman presents a beautiful and chilling commentary in this series. Isn't is strange to think that the greatest of structures designed and built by man is always susceptible to a greater force? Living in our cities, where we are often the centers of our own worlds, we tend to forget there are greater forces acting independently and outside of our wills. Rockman reminds us of our smallness.
Abby Fisher

Looking at the power of natural forces with a human focus makes us look very small and weak. I think it is also interesting to look the other way and see that power as a picture of the greatness of God. Even though we seem to be so small and insignificant we still have the responsibility of taking care of this large world we live in. In one way we are much weaker than the forces of this planet, yet we also have a responsibility to take care and oversee the well being of the planet.

Wish there were detail shots, bet this painting has a heck of a fatty gloss to it. Love the melting paint in these boiling pictures. Thumbnails can't justify. Bravo Rockman
Nick Poe

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