October 5, 2022

“Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks” Now at Art @Bainbridge

 “LUSITANIA”: This work is featured in “Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks,” on view through November 27 at the Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge gallery on Nassau Street.

The Princeton University Art Museum presents “Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks,” an exhibition of new paintings and works on paper that depict contemporary interpretations of historical shipwrecks while confronting current environmental crises, on view at Art@Bainbridge through November 27.

Rockman’s paintings are filled with intricate details that illustrate the impact of human migration, trade, and colonialism on the natural world. Perhaps surprisingly, the artist downplays the presence of people in these narratives, instead focusing our attention on the aftermath of human actions and their implications for nonhuman life.

“Alexis Rockman’s paintings evoke the grandeur of such 19th-century Romantic painters as Caspar David Friedrich and J. M. W. Turner while presenting a uniquely contemporary perspective,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “They invite us to consider the interconnectedness of human and animal life against the backdrop of a vast natural world imperiled by human behavior.”

Throughout the exhibition, large oil paintings and intimate watercolors heighten the urgency of addressing the ecological damage wrought by human overdevelopment. Described as an “eco-warrior,” Rockman has a vast knowledge of the natural sciences and a deep passion for environmental activism, both of which inform and enliven the visual language of his work.

Distinctively, Rockman’s paintings consider the perspectives of all life forms. In Lusitania, based on the sinking of the British ocean liner by a German torpedo during World War I, he foregrounds a variety of animal life as collateral victims of human affairs. Another work, Luxborough Galley, recalls the incident when the ship of that name caught fire while transporting rum from the Americas to England as part of the triangular slave trade; the artist interprets this event from the perspective of the sea creatures beneath the waves. Rockman’s dramatic representations of maritime history serve as metaphors for the complexities of human hubris, capitalist exploitation, and the effects of each on the wider world.

“Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks” is organized by Guild Hall of East Hampton, N.Y., and presented by the Princeton University Art Museum.

Art@Bainbridge is located at 158 Nassau Street. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit artmuseum.princeton.edu.