celebrities have the infamy of specimen perfection and the claim to frozen
immortality on alters of display. I'm interested in the boundaries of
the human, as other, as animal, and the ways that these underpin our notions
The exhibition 'Stuffed Histories' has just opened in New York at Nikolai Fine Art. The results of two years work by Karl Grimes at the American Museum of Natural History, large hyper-real color prints jump off the walls. At first, you think of animals and habitats, but double-takes suggest that there is something out of the natural apparent in these biological cartoons. Are these are the stars of a sublime natural world?
The unpredictability of nature no longer exists. There is no danger except in examining the authenticity of the real and ideal, the actual has little to do with it's illusionary representation, even when that representation is made of skin and bone and captured on film. We photograph to collect, sentimentalise and remember. Though indeed these beautiful reinterpretations are a tribute to the living they may also be valentines of extinction: iconic records of a lost scenario. Grimes has re-animated these creatures and scenes. They are stuffed with painterly as well as lens based references. His lighting illuminates each vignette and saturates these intimate man-made portraits with the language of contemporary advertising and fashion color.
dioramas are the site of Grimes' fieldwork. These are perhaps the world's
first virtual spaces. They do not simply evoke particular sites, they
replicate individual animals in specific geographic locations at a specific
time. Instrumental in the initial assembly of the dioramas, stereo photographs
were used by the background painters to faithfully capture every detail.
The museum mounted expedition after expedition to collect all available
resources needed to construct these cased environments: shooting both
with gun and camera. Their construction also changed the practice of taxidermy
forever. The art of stuffing was replaced by the recreation of the animals'
shape with an armature of wood, wire, and actual skeleton, with clay added
to define each muscle, tendon and vein......
Adams, Nicholas. 'Karl Grimes - Stuffed Histories' . Source, Issue no 23, 2000. pp.23-29.
York Contemporary Art Report. June/July 1999, p.67.