Amon Carter Museum of American Art Announces Collaboration with Contemporary Conceptual Artist Mark Dion

Release date: 
July 11, 2018

The Perilous Texas Adventures of Mark Dion will Present the Culmination of Two Years of Texas Exploration by Dion with a Site-Specific Installation Inspired by Historical Travelers in the Museum Collection

Fort Worth, TX, July 11, 2018—Today the Amon Carter Museum of American Art announced The Perilous Texas Adventures of Mark Dion, an exhibition in collaboration with contemporary conceptual artist Mark Dion inspired by holdings in the museum’s collection. Commissioned by the Amon Carter, Dion will undergo a series of journeys through Texas retracing the footsteps of 19th-century explorers including ornithologist and artist John James Audubon, watercolorist Sarah Ann Lillie Hardinge, architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and botanist Charles Wright. The result of these trips will be a site-specific, large-scale installation created by Dion coupled with works on paper, paintings, and archival materials from the Amon Carter’s collection opening in February 2020.

“The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is pleased to be partnering with Mark Dion, an internationally renowned influential and innovative artist, on a project that not only celebrates the museum’s holdings of 19th-century works on paper and paintings, but the adventurous spirit of the history of Texas,” stated Andrew J. Walker, Executive Director.

Dion, who connects his work to history and the past, is one of the most well-regarded living artists today. He is part explorer, part historian, part naturalist, and part collector of curiosities. His large-scale installations are evocations of the past in their materials and ethos, but address today’s culture head-on with intellect and humor. Through this exhibition, which is influenced in part by Dion’s 2008 exhibition Travels of William Bartram — Reconsidered at the Bartram’s Gardens in Philadelphia and other projects in which Dion retraced the footsteps of historical figures, the museum is able to deepen engagement with history by bringing the past into the present day.

“Mark Dion approaches history with both humor and respect while embodying the artist-explorer experience in modern times,” said Curator Margaret C. Adler. “He is able to push the boundaries of what a normal exhibition looks like, but still makes it accessible to a wide audience by creating a sense of wonder. With this project, we are able to build upon the museum’s history of featuring American art of the past and connecting to our Texas roots in a new and exciting way.”

Over the course of two years, Dion will visit four distinct areas of Texas, including the Gulf Coast, the artist’s first trip having taken place in Galveston in spring 2018; West Texas, beginning in Fort Worth and concluding in El Paso; a special visit to King Ranch and Austin; and finally San Antonio. Dion’s traversing of the state, more than 150 years after Audubon, Hardinge, Olmsted, and Wright visited, enhances our understanding of the past and ultimately brings it to life in the present day. During Dion’s journeys he will be accompanied by travel “guides,” specific to each region, including fellow artists; botanists; and a Comanche educator, poet, and artist.

The exhibition will tell the story of artist-explorers, building from the museum’s historical collection and concluding with Dion’s own travels through Texas. This story will be organized along three thematic sections:
• Artist-Explorer Tradition
The history of the artist-explorer tradition will be told through three different artistic approaches to traveling. Works by artists who served as scientific explorers, such as Martin Johnson Heade and Alexander Wilson, will highlight critical roles artist play in expanding our understanding of the natural world through visual documentation. The complexity and problematic aspects of outsiders documenting Native cultures will be examined through work by artists such as Karl Bodmer and George Catlin. This section will conclude with work by Albert Bierstadt, William Henry Jackson, and Thomas Moran, the first artists to survey the western regions of the country, emphasizing the vastness of the landscape in paintings, prints, and photographs.
• Concerning Texas
The story of easterners who became Texas explorers — John James Audubon, Sarah Ann Lillie Hardinge, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Charles Wright — will be explored through Audubon’s prints; Hardinge’s watercolors, letters, land claim map, and related ephemeral material; Olmsted’s writings; and Wright’s letters and plant specimens.
• Mark Dion
Dion’s site-specific installation will include a combination of his own creations and objects collected during his journeys, which he considers his artist supplies, displayed in a series of custom curio cabinets. Accompanying the installation will be Dion’s own renderings of maps, plants and animals, scrapbooks and more that follow the evolution of the idea of the artist-naturalist and artist-explorer of the early 19th century through today.

The exhibition will also feature a documentary film about Dion’s travels, produced by Erik Clapp and commissioned by the Amon Carter. The film will illuminate Dion’s artistic vision and process, capturing the exploration and imagination of his journeys as the commission evolves into its final installation in the exhibition The Perilous Texas Adventures of Mark Dion.

The museum will provide a number of interactive, community, and educational experiences leading up to the exhibition’s opening in February 2020, including distance learning opportunities for classrooms and a Girl Scout program scheduled for July 2018 featuring a “fun patch” designed by Dion. Visit cartermuseum.org for announcements and information on exhibition engagement opportunities.

The Perilous Texas Adventures of Mark Dion is organized by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and curated by Margaret C. Adler. The exhibition is supported by Juli and Mac McGinnis through the McGinnis Family Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas.

About the Artist
Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1961. He received a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford, School of Art, Connecticut. Dion has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001), The Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2007), and the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Lucida Art Award (2008). He has had major exhibitions at the British Museum of Natural History in London (2007); Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003); and Tate Gallery, London (1999). The largest American survey of his work opened in October 2017 at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. He lives and works in New York.

Exhibition Catalogue
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue designed by Lucia | Marquand and distributed by Yale University Press, featuring essays by Margaret C. Adler, Curator at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and Michaela Haffner, Curatorial Assistant at the Amon Carter, as well as travelogue accounts by Mark Dion and the artist’s travel companions. Playing off the look and feel of grand expeditionary journals of the 19th century, this unique publication will constitute a singular journey through the Lone Star State, a vast region of the country beloved still today for its association with the irrepressible stories of the nation’s wild, western history.

Images: Various samples collected by Mark Dion in Galveston, Texas 2018; Box containing samples collected by Mark Dion in Galveston, Texas, April 201; Mark, Dion, Sketch of Seagull, 2018, watercolor on paper, courtesy of Mark Dion.

About the Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson (1906–2005), the Amon Carter opened in 1961 and houses a preeminent collection of American art including painting, photographs, sculpture and works on paper. The paintings collection spans early 19th-century expeditionary art to mid-20th-century Modernism and includes masterworks by artists such as Frederic Church, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe and John Singer Sargent. The museum is one of the nation’s major repositories of American photography from the 19th century to the present and holds the archives of luminaries such as Laura Gilpin, Eliot Porter and Karl Struss. It is also home to nearly 400 works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, the two greatest artists of the American West. Admission is free. Open: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sunday 12–5 p.m. Closed Mondays and major holidays. @theamoncarter