January 21 – February 25, 2017
Talley Dunn Gallery is pleased to present a special spotlight exhibition that re-visits a master installation by Dallas-based artist Erick Swenson. There will be a reception for the artist on Saturday, January 21st from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., and the artwork will be on view in the project gallery through February 25, 2017.
The exhibition features an important sculptural installation by Erick Swenson entitled “Ne Plus Ultra” from 2010. Painstakingly created over a period of more than a year, “Ne Plus Ultra” presents a fallen deer lying on its side and displayed in a state of decomposition as it lays on a low, wide plinth. All of Swenson’s incredible detail pulls the viewer closer to appreciate the mass of the form and the meticulous scrimshaw carving featured on its bones, leaving the viewer to experience a range of emotion, from disgust to awe and perhaps eventual appreciation. Erick formed the work by casting each part piece by piece in polyurethane resin before painting and assembling the tableau. The scrimshaw maps highlighted on the bones of the deer were made with a sand etching machine and then carefully painted with acrylic.
As with many of the artist’s earlier sculptures, the fallen deer presented in “Ne Plus Ultra” serves as a surrogate for the human figure to create a compelling, open-ended narrative that brings to mind significant issues of vulnerability, loss, and our eventual mortality. “Ne Plus Ultra” relates to Swenson’s important earlier pieces that also feature the deer figure, including Untitled from 2000 with a young deer balancing on one hoof with a black and red drapery billowing above its head (in the permanent collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) and Untitled, 2001, with an adolescent deer rubbing the velvet off of its newly developed horns on an antique rug (exhibited in the Whitney Biennial in 2004).
Moreover, “Ne Plus Ultra” (meaning “nothing beyond this”) shows a curious take on the memento mori tradition, as the sculpture’s title references not only our sense of the unknown after death, but also the limits to our experience and knowledge of the world around us. The words ne plus ultra were written on maps in the 15th and 16th centuries to label areas that were unknown or unexplored. The scrimshaw carving upon the bones offers nautical maps both real and imaginary, alluding to a common 19th century practice of engraving sea routes and sailors’ adages onto the bones of sea mammals.
Once the viewer acknowledges the grisly details of the deer’s rotted flesh, he/she is able to see the delicate engraving of the scrimshaw maps to etched on the bones. The secret of the animal’s hidden destiny is revealed only after it has died and has begun to disintegrate. In essence, Swenson’s sculpture suggests that by confronting the unknown or acknowledging our own mortality, we are perhaps able to discover the underlying purpose and meaning of our lives.
After solo exhibitions at DiverseWorks Art Space (Houston), Villa Stuck (Munich), and the UCLA Hammer Museum, Swenson gained international recognition when his work was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and his sculptures are now included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Saatchi Collection in London, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
The exhibition runs concurrently with “Vernon Fisher: American Landscape” in the main gallery. Talley Dunn Gallery is open to the public on Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am until
5:00 pm and by appointment.
January 21, 2017 to February 25, 2017
10:00am to 5:00pm
- Tuesday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
- Wednesday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
- Thursday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
- Friday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
- Saturday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Erick Swenson, Ne Plus Ultra, 2010, acrylic on urethane resin with MDF plinth, 17 x 72 x 54 inches, edition 2 of 2. Photo credit: Kevin Todora.