The Beast Catalog of Walton Ford

Walton Ford’s exhibition ‘Bestiarium‘ at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for Contemporary Art in Berlin – looks like a large-scale encyclopaedia of the animal kingdom.

The American artist, born in 1960, decided to develop his artistic work in the direction that would lead him to ‘Bestiarium’. He was moved by several exhibitions at the Museum of Natural History in New York. His interest in ornithology and the work of John James Audubon began. Audubon was one of the first Americans in the 19th century to undertake the task of cataloguing all the birds of North America. Audubon published ‘Birds of America’, which consisted of 435 life-size drawings of the birds that fascinated him.

In the 1990s, Walton Ford decided to follow in the footsteps of French and British colonial illustrators by offering hyper-realistic works that were themselves catalogues of terrestrial fauna and flora. But 1990 was no longer the 19th century, and it was not worth repeating this step; Ford’s work, on the other hand, offers us spaces full of “complex and disturbing allusions” that distance his work from that of those who invented the animal world.

The struggle between animals is a constant in the works of ‘Bestiarium’, and all the animal figures in the exhibition are in danger. A nest of birds that is devouring a fish that is overflowing with smaller ones, or a gorilla that is playing with the barrel of a shotgun in its mouth, are examples of an animal world that is devouring itself. It is the beautiful ballet of death. Walter Ford could leave behind a list of species that are certain to disappear in this cannibalistic world. Instead, he chooses to make this cannibalism loud and clear.

In this 2015 video, Walton Ford explains his style and his vision of the relationship between the human being and the animal.

Walton Ford – Part 2/3 – Finding his Style from Our Choices on Vimeo.

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