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F E A T U R E

Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics

Henry Art Gallery
Seattle, WA • through Aug 25, 2002

AT A TIME when words such as cloning and genetic engineering have become common place and the human genome is becoming an emerging reality it is no surprise that the creative individuals of our society (artists) seek to respond to these elements of science and cultural change through an extensive exhibition. The Henry Art Gallery is the first to exhibit Gene(sis) which plans to tour nationally over the next two years.

Kac and Alba
Eduardo Kac and Alba, the fluorescent bunny. 
Photo: Chrystelle Fontaine
In his transgenic installation "Genesis" (1999), Kac translated a biblical quote into Morse code, then into DNA language and then into actual genetic material. These genes mutate in response to viewer attention in the installation and over the Internet. GFP Bunny (1999), or "Alba," is a transgenic animal created by splicing the DNA of a Pacific Northwest jellyfish with that of an albino rabbit producing a rabbit that, under ultraviolet lights of a certain intensity, glows green.

“Alba,” developed in consultation with a French geneticist, is part of a much larger social event that includes transdisciplinary dialogue on the cultural and ethical implications of genetic engineering and the integration into society of a transgenic creature. Kac is assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in Interactive Arts (CaiiA) at the University of Wales, Newport.

Gene(sis) came into inception as a response to the Human Genome Project (a government funded research project.) Artists, scientists, historians, the biotech industry, museum professionals, educators and bioethicists created Gene(sis) to aid the understanding of how genomic research will effect human life.

The extensive exhibition encompasses a range of responses from fine art painting to manipulated photography, theatrical installation, and other projects that could only be a result of this human query. Such as an extensive internet maze game (Chimera Obscura) based on the human thumb print where the participant changes and mutates while in cyberspace.

Twins
Margi Geerlinks, Twins (2000), Fujichrome on perspex and dibond [Henry Art Gallery Seattle WA, thru Aug 25]

There is an obvious unity in the exhibit in that every piece is drawing on some aspect that we would normally consider to be science. If We Do Ever Get Any Closer At Cloning Ourselves Please Tell My Science-Doctor To Use Motown Records As My Connecting Parts b/w The Polar Soul by Dario Robleto is a sculptural laboratory hybrid with audio equipment. Incorporating humour, satire or an imagined potential reality, many pieces raise the issue to further levels of understanding asking ethical questions such as “who owns your genes?” Genetic Code Copyright Certificate (1992) by Larry Miller is a series of eight signed documents designed to prove genome ownership. Viewers will also see faux lab samples, photographs of transgenic beings and clones, and a tree of life showing viewers the close relationship the human genome has to yeast, roundworm, the fruit fly, and mice.

Gene(sis) is accompanied by a series of symposiums, films and performances, stimulating one’s mind to form their own opinions and perhaps even change or at least participate in the fate of how genomic reproduction will fit into contemporary life.

© Allyn Cantor

FEATURES, NEW & OLD: Vanishing Ice | Kingston Prize | Charles Edenshaw | Jillian McDonald | William Perehudoff | Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough:The Treasures of Kenwood House, London | Carrying on Irregardless | Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou | James Nizam: Trace Heavens | Gaugin & Polynesia | Leslie Dill's Poetic Vision | Preview's 25th Anniversary in Print | The Surrealist Revolution in Art | Carl Beam | Shadows of a Fleeting World: Seattle Camera Club | Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National, Paris | Show of Hands: Northwest Women Artists 1880-2010 | Fleeting Beauty: Japanese Woodblock Prints | Judy Radul: World Rehearsal Court | Requiem: BY Photographers Who Died in Vietnam & Indochina | Andreas Gurksy: Werke/Works 80-08 | Chris Jordan: Running the Numbers II | Action-Camera: Beijing Performance Photography | Hiro Yamagata: T R A N S I E N T | Henk Pander: History and Typography | Mandy Greer: Dare alla Luce | Generation: Images of Youth | Rembrandt & Dutch Art's Golden Age | Seattle Art Museum at 75 | Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings | Joanna Staniszkis: Silk City | Rodin: In His Own Words | First Nations Art: Historic to Contemporary | Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes | Three Rivers: Wild Waters, Sacred Places | Portland Art Museum | Acting Out: Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore | Isamu Noguchi: Sculptural Design | Rhythm and Change: The Bow in Contemporary Art | Douglas Curran: The Elephant Has Four Hearts | Fay Jones: Recent Paintings | Massive Change: Bruce Mau | Web Images: Quick Guide | Treasures From the Kröller-Müller | Gerry Deiter: Give Peace a Chance | InFest: International Artist-Run Culture | Silver: Dreams, Screens & Theories | Paul Wong: COLLECT | James Turrell: Knowing Light | Joanna Staniszkis: Linen’s Edge | Daniel Joliffe/Jocelyn Robert: Ground Station | Bratsa Bonifacho: Habitat Pixel | Edouardo Kac: Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics | Douglas Gordon at the VAG | Walk Ways Explore Body-Mind Connection

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