Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist

Ruth Erickson. Yale Univ., $50 (216p) ISBN 978-0-300-22407-8
Accompanying an exhibit of the same name at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, this catalog spans 30 years of American conceptual artist Mark Dion’s work. Ostensibly curatorial in nature, Dion’s art incorporates taxidermy, relics of science, found objects, and other materials. The installation pieces for which he is best known replicate the work spaces of archaeologists, ornithologists, and ecologists in states of organized chaos, and call into question the ways in which humans interpret and display the natural world. Curator Erickson provides incisive running commentary throughout the book, noting Dion’s interest in presenting the “flotsam and jetsam of human culture through natural and not-so-natural specimens.” The juxtapositions within the work show frequent humor, an abiding sense of irony, and imagery that’s sometimes jarring. One installation replicates the bedroom of a dinosaur-fixated child circa mid-1980s; in a standalone sculpture called Killers Killed, tar-coated taxidermy specimens hang from tree branches, calling to mind a lynching. The book features essays by contributors from diverse professional backgrounds, speaking to the many tributaries that feed into Dion’s work, including ecology, archaeology, and pedagogy. The book’s layered approach to Dion’s far-reaching oeuvre, with significant focus from guest authors on the methodology behind the artist’s immersive creations, gives it appeal beyond the readership of museumgoers. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 12/04/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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