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Albertina Opens Walton Ford's First Exhibition in Austria
Walton Ford, Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London, 2009. Watercolor, gouache, ink, and pencil on paper. © Walton Ford, Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery.

VIENNA.- The work of the American artist Walton Ford (born in 1960) will be presented by the Albertina for the first time in Austria in an exhibition on show as of June 18, 2010. The presentation comprises 22 large-format works by the artist from the last ten years.

All of Ford’s works radiate something disconcerting and eerie: a wild turkey crushing a little parrot between its claws, a horde of monkeys devastating a laid table, a buffalo surrounded by a pack of bloodstained wolves amidst a well-kept French garden. Ford’s technique of painting relies on the proven method of the scientific draftsman. As irritating in their style as bewildering in their contents, his works breathe an oppressing familiarity. With titles such as “An Encounter with Du Chaillu,” “Borodino,” “The Sensorium,” or “Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London,” his drawings blur the dividing line between man and animal and push open the door to a realm of fantasies, dreams, and nightmares.

Always as large as life and rendering every detail, Walton Ford’s animal watercolors strike us as contrary to the zeitgeist at first sight, thus immediately questioning established expectations concerning the contemporary aesthetics’ complex of rules. In their old masterly style, Walton Ford’s gloriously colorful pictures recall and quote famous nineteenth-century artists’ portrayals of nature and animals. They seem to echo past colonial times and combine things supposed to be overcome with topical scenes. In his narrative works, Ford proves to be an artist who varies a world handed down in order to unfold a visual universe of infinitely complex and irritating allusions. His animal pictures testify to the comprehensive art-historical and scientific knowledge he can avail himself of in his quest for analogies between yesterday and today. They constitute a contemporary “bestiary” of impressive imaginative power.

Walton Ford was born in 1960 in Larchmont in the state of New York and now lives in the mountains of The Berkshires in Massachusetts. Even from an early age, the various exhibits in the Museum of Natural History in New York held a fascination over him. In particular, Ford embarked on an intimate study of the works of the US American ornithologist and drawer of animals, John James Audubon (1785-1851). Walton Ford's search for finding analogies between the past and the present day has led to a series of pictures, created from the 1990s onwards, in which he superimposes intricate natural history depictions with current perceptions and critical commentaries, as well as adding quotes from literary sources from past centuries, rendered in the style of the old masters. In his works, which can be seen as satires on political oppression and the exploitation of the environment, he casts doubt on the adage of the ‘ever new' and the ‘ever better' that has held sway ever since the Renaissance. At the same time he raises questions on a diverse range of set expectations and established rules in contemporary aesthetics. In glorious colour, his pictures open up a view of a reality that we have long since suppressed or forgotten.

The artist conscientiously presents himself as an outsider in the contemporary art world through his body of work, which stands out today as truly singular and has already garnered great attention in the USA.

Albertina | Walton Ford | Vienna |

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