Mark Dion, Mandrillus Sphinx (detail), 2012. Full credit below.

Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Visiting Artist Lecture: Mark Dion

February 29, 2016
6p Reception, 6:30p Lecture
Steinberg Auditorium

Artist Mark Dion, whose work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world, will deliver the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Lecture, titled Jellyfish, Bear Dens and Raiding Neptune's Vault: Adventures in Contemporary Art.

The job of the artist, Dion says, is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, he creates works that question the distinctions between "objective" ("rational") scientific methods and "subjective" ("irrational") influences. His spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkammen of the 16th century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.

Dion has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001), The Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2007), and the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Lucida Art Award (2008). He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003); Tate Gallery, London (1999); and the British Museum of Natural History in London (2007). Neukom Vivarium (2006), a permanent outdoor installation and learning lab for the Olympic Sculpture Park, was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum. Dion produced a major permanent commission, OCEANOMANIA: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas for the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. He is the co-director of Mildred's Land, an innovative visual art education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.

For over two decades, Dion has worked in the public realm on a wide range of scales, from architecture projects to print projects in newspaper. Some of his most recent large-scale public projects include The Amateur Ornithologist Clubhouse, a Captain Nemo-like interior constructed in a vast gas tank in Essen, Germany; The Hanging Garden, a collaboration with the landscape design firm Gross Max in central London that consists of a fire escape-like vertical garden; and Den, a large-scale folly in Norway's mountainous landscape that features a massive sculpture of a sleeping bear resting on a hill of material culture from the neolithic to the present. Dion also produced large-scale permanent commissions for Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, as well as for the Montevideo Biannale in Uruguay, The Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, The Rose Art Museum, and the Port of Los Angeles.

Born in Massachusetts in 1961, Dion currently lives in New York City with his wife and frequent collaborator, artist Dana Sherwood, and works worldwide. He earned a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut. He also studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York from 1982-84, and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program from 1984-85.

Image credit

Mark Dion, Mandrillus Sphinx (detail), 2012. Wood, glass, plastic, tar, metal, ceramic, paper, cork, ribbon, and string. Overall installed dimensions: 69 x 26 1/2 x 50 1/2 inches; 175.3 x 67.3 x 128.3 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.