“Cascade,” 2015, oil and alkyd on wood panel, 72 x 144 in. Commissioned by Grand Rapids Art Museum with funds provided by Peter Wege, Jim and Mary Nelson, John and Muriel Halick, Mary B. Loupee, and Karl and Patricia Betz. Grand Rapids Art Museum, 2015.19

Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle
Through April 29, 2018
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Alexis Rockman, who is known for his critically acclaimed ecology-based works of art, has a multi-faceted solo exhibition of new works that bring attention to the ecology of the Great Lakes region. Hosted by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the collection celebrates the majesty and global importance of the lakes while identifying factors — visible and invisible — that threaten the system.

“Upper Peninsula,” 2017, watercolor, ink, and acrylic on paper, 74 x 52 in. Collection of Jonathan O’Hara and Sheila Skaff

“The Great Lakes — Erie, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, and Superior — hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh water and form an interconnected system that is among the most beautiful, economically significant, and ecologically complex regions on the planet,” states the press release. “The Lakes are one of the most precious resources for the future of all life on earth. In this timely exhibition, Rockman examines the history of the Great Lakes, the current challenges in the region, and the opportunities to positively shape its future.

“Drop of Water,” 2017, watercolor, ink, and acrylic on paper, 74 1/8 x 52 in. Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

“Long before Alexis Rockman picks up a paint brush, he formulates each painting through rigorous research. The paintings in Alexis Rockman’s ‘Great Lakes Cycle’ are incredibly dense, with ecological and historical references spanning tens of thousands of years. In a special presentation, on March 22, underwater explorer and author Valerie van Heest uncovers the story behind just one of Rockman’s many references — the disappearance of Northwest Airlines Flight 2501.

“Spheres of Influence,” 2016, oil and alkyd on wood panel, 72 x 144 in. Collection of Jonathan O’Hara and Sheila Skaff

“The sunk wreckage of Flight 2501, a DC-4 aircraft with 58 people on board, fills the lower half of Rockman’s painting ‘Spheres of Influence’ (2016). Lost on June 23, 1950, at the time it was the country’s worst commercial aviation disaster. The wreck was never located and the cause of the accident was never determined. Over half a century later, explorers Clive Cussler and Valerie van Heest have teamed up to attempt to find the submerged wreck and solve the mystery of the plane’s disappearance. Van Heest will share how an unexpected meeting with a victim’s son prompted a search of a different kind, one that would be more illuminating than submerged sections of twisted aluminum, and will reveal that the answers are sometimes found in unexpected places.

“Lake Sturgeon,” 2017, sand from pictured rocks and acrylic polymer on paper, 12 1/2 x 9 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Sperone Westwater, New York

“The exhibition features a suite of five mural-sized oil and alkyd paintings (72 x 144 in.), each exploring a theme that emerged during the artist’s research, travel in the region, and engagement with Great Lakes specialists. The works, inspired by historic panoramic paintings and 19th-century landscapes, are accompanied by keys illustrating and notating the species, artifacts, and historical references within each. Additionally, six large-scale (72 x 52 in.) watercolors and a selection of 28 monochrome field drawings created exclusively with organic materials collected at various Great Lakes sites enhance the exhibition.”

There will be several informative programs and talks presented in conjunction with the exhibition. For more information, please visit artmuseumgr.org.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. Click here to start receiving Fine Art Today for free.


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