PaperCity Magazine

March 2020- Fort Worth

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BY CATHERINE D. ANSPON Above: Mark Dion's The Texas Cabinet (detail), 2020, wooden cabinet filled with objects from Dion's travels Below: John James Audubon's Hooping [sic] Crane. Grus americana. Adult Male., 1834 DECIPHERING MARK DION'S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES A WUNDERKAMMER COMES TO THE AMON CARTER MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. Michelle Nussbaumer I f you're a time traveler from the early part of the 19th century, you'll feel right at home in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art this spring. There, an immersive installation by American artist Mark Dion takes over the museum's second- floor galleries, transformed for the occasion into a botanist's dream and a specimen- and vitrine-filled take on a natural history museum from centuries past. With the tongue-in- cheek title "The Perilous Adventures of Mark Dion," the exhibition follows in the Carter's vaunted tradition of commissioning talents to realize site- specific shows generously funded by the museum. With the Dion exhibition, its antique-feeling catalog, and accompanying film, the Carter has scored a coup that rivals the artist's lavish and layered exhibitions around the world. To date, Dion has presented one-person shows at MoMA, New York, and the Tate Gallery and British Museum of Natural History, London. For Fort Worth, he was enjoined by Carter curator Maggie Adler to take a two-year odyssey trekking across four regions of Texas: the Gulf Coast; West Texas, from Fort Worth to El Paso; the King Ranch and Austin; and San Antonio. The footsteps the artist followed are fading but significant: ornithologist and artist John James Audubon (in Galveston as early as 1837); watercolorist Sarah Ann Lillie Hardinge; architect Frederick Law Olmsted; and botanist Charles Wright. Dion also raided the Carter's rich collection for inspiration, especially its trove of American 19th-century canvases by Albert Bierstadt and Martin Johnson Heade. He sleuthed and collected botanical specimens in the field and at the edge of the ocean and also did some shopping with antiquarians, thrift stores, curio shops, and fabled art stops such as Bill's Junk in the Houston Heights. Why did the Carter tap Dion for this ambitious art jaunt across time and space? "He engages with history with a sense of humor, but [also] a great seriousness for the role of botanists, naturalists, historical figures, and historical artists," says curator Maggie Adler. In the museum's preview film clip that follow's Dion on his adventures, she explains: "He is a collector of objects. Sometimes it's Fruit Loops — sometimes it's botanical specimens — and he's really engaged in this process of obsessive collecting in a way that creates a sense of wonder when you walk into his exhibition." In the same film clip, Dion — who is shown haggling with an antiques vendor then going to an ATM to get cash for the transaction — says, "For my topic, the construction of nature and the history of natural history, the collection, at Amon Carter couldn't be better. We came up with the idea of constructing an exhibition that follows the evolution of the idea of the artist naturalist and the artist explorer from the early 19th-century to today." Adler says, "I like that spirit of adventure being brought to the Amon Carter. It pushes the boundaries of what a normal exhibition looks like. Read more about Dion's reverence and quest for botanical materials on page 84. "The Perilous Adventures of Mark Dion," through May 17, at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, 86

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