Published: October 24, 2006
The Brooklyn Museum will present the exhibition, “Tigers of Wrath: Watercolors by Walton Ford,” November 3 through January 28.
More than 50 of Walton Ford’s meticulously rendered, large-scale watercolors of vividly imagined birds, animals and flora will be showcased. “Tigers of Wrath: Watercolors by Walton Ford,” which will tour to other venues, comprises watercolors created between 1990 and the present, exploring such themes as colonialism, the naturalist tradition and the extinction of species.
Using the animal kingdom as a mirror of the human world, Ford employs his skill as an artist and observer to communicate his views on society. In “The Starling,” 2002, he depicts an enormous European starling presiding over a desertlike landscape and being fed by exotic birds from around the world. In “Passenger Pigeons of Falling Bough,” 2002, Ford presents a massive flock of the squabbling birds perched on a bough that has broken under their weight.
Also included in the exhibition are “Dirty Dick Burton’s Aide de Camp,” 2002, in which a monkey represents the Nineteenth Century naturalist Richard Burton, who employed primates in his house to learn their language; and “Jack on His Deathbed,” 2005, in which the primate is a stand-in for the Eighteenth Century British ambassador to Naples, Sir William Hamilton, a diplomat who owned a pet monkey.
In “Delirium,” 2004, he makes reference to John James Audubon’s practice of killing animals in order to study them more closely. In this image the golden eagle, still attached to a trap, flies to freedom, while the tiny figure of Audubon lies flat in the snow below.
Ford drew his early inspiration from the work of Nineteenth Century artist and naturalist Audubon — particularly his prodigious Birds of America series — as well as from visits to the American Museum of Natural History. Other influences include J.J. Grandville and Sir John Tenniel, the French artists whose caricatures of part-human, part-animal subjects satirized Nineteenth Century French and British society; Edward Lear, an artist and writer known for his nonsensical poetry and limericks; George Catlin, a self-taught painter of Native Americans; and Francisco Goya, the Spanish artist working at the turn of the Nineteenth Century.
Born in Larchmont, N.Y., in 1960, Ford is a 1982 graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and is the recipient of several national awards and honors including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Tigers of Wrath: Watercolors by Walton Ford” is organized by Marilyn Kushner, chair and curator, Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Brooklyn Museum.
The museum is at 200 Eastern Parkway. For information, www.brooklynmuseum.org or 718-638-5000.
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