Locks Gallery is pleased to present Ellen Harvey’s The Museum of Ornamental Leaves and Other Monochromatic Collections, a solo exhibition coinciding with Harvey’s Metal Painting installation at the Barnes Foundation on view through January 4, 2016. There will be a reception for the artist on Friday, November 6 from 5:30-7:30pm.
This year Harvey was the subject of a major 302-page monograph, The Museum of Failure, with new scholarship by curator Henriette Huldisch and an interview between the artist and curator Adam Budak. The publication sheds light on how Harvey has continuously worked with methods employed by museums and within art history to open up questions about our value systems regarding art, architecture, and cultural history.
On view at the gallery is her latest work alongside other major monochromatic pieces featured in this mid-career survey publication. Harvey’s new The Forest of Obsolete Ornaments is a playful taxonomy that juxtaposes sculptural casts of the leaf molds for ornamental architectural detailing with Harvey’s own 2d rendering of forest trees, evoking a late 18th century picturesque motif. This shadowboxed piece is paired with Shadow Ornaments (Leaves), a sister painting where the ornamental leaves are rendered in silhouette akin to her installation at the Barnes Foundation, Metal Painting.
Harvey has revisited forest iconography and art historical modes of landscape representation throughout her career, blurring the line between the natural and unnatural in our perception and systems of representation. Some of Harvey’s major works have also used natural imagery in the context of ecologic succession, an extension of her ongoing exploration of real and imagined ruins. These threads find themselves together in her painting New Forest/The Internal Revenue Service Reforested, where plant life overgrows her imagined abandonment of the massive Andover, Massachusetts IRS complex; Harvey was commissioned to make a large-scale sandblasted mirror piece for the lobby of the actual Andover office and a sculptural installation of technologic “fossils” for the exterior.
The artist’s fascination with ruins was best explored in an acclaimed 2013 installation at the now-shuttered Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC entitled The Alien’s Guide to the Ruins of Washington DC. The installation proposed a future where extraterrestrials have discovered an abandoned planet Earth, and the contents of the exhibition are actually the alien’s anthropological attempt to archive and understand architectural neoclassicism and why the former residents erected so many white, pillared buildings. One of Harvey’s large sculptural elements of this installation, Alien Souvenir Stand, is a re-imagined replica of one of the ubiquitous D.C. hotdog stands that instead proffers fake maps and guides to this otherworldly exhibition. This work is on view at Locks Gallery for the first time since her Corcoran installation.