Good WeatherSolo show, Marlborough Contemporary, New York, 2017
Emerging from recent trips to Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico, this body of work continues von Bismarck’s explorations of the intersection of human beings and the relentless forces of nature. The sculptures, photographs and video included here investigate the territory between our Victorian inclination toward a taming taxonomy and a cruel and chaotic reality. The exhibition as a whole acts as a highly distilled and museologically ordered document of extreme power and violence.
Situating the jungle as both a potent symbol of Western fear and a romanticized rainforest ecosystem, von Bismarck creates a visceral tension for his audience. The video entitled Talking to Thunder depicts the artist’s attempts at taming a bolt of lightning. By firing an aluminum rocket (equipped with a grounding wire of braided Kevlar, copper and silver) into a raging storm he is able to complete a circuit of tremendous power between the sky and the ground. The result, captured on video and in still photographs, appears to literally straighten the lightning bolt in its path to the ground. Designed as eventual sculptures, the rockets themselves are included here, lightning-struck relics, loaded with the history of this communion.
Like a Colonial scientist, von Bismarck has collected plant species from jungle. Rather than pressing tiny flowers in a notebook, the artist has pressed large plants and entire palm trees into flattened specimens. Heated to a precise 250 degrees in an enormous custom-built oven and a 50-ton hydraulic press, the plants are completely dehydrated without losing their verdant coloration, and squashed astonishingly flat. They are then backed with thin stainless steel to maintain their shape for presentation.