You see I am here after all

You See I Am Here After All is the title of a new Zoe Leonard project, exhibited in the DIA:Beacon museum in the town of Beacon in New York State. I think it’s the largest single work of (wall) art I’ve ever seen.

The project consists of about 4000 postcards of Niagara Falls, sourced from flea markets and the internet. They are displayed on a long wall of the museum, arranged in grids according to viewpoint and colour. It is a huge, manic effort of collecting, a “collectomania,” vast, and symphonic, as if Phillip Glass had composed a long piece on Niagara Falls and it had somehow been rendered visible. Each passage concentrates on postcards of a particular view, and the repitition and rhythmic variation of tones and compositions creates a soft painterly effect.

Any such giant artwork on Niagara Falls will inevitably recall Frederick Church’s 1857 painting Niagara. At Dia:Beacon, a museum of Minimalist and Conceptual Art, the work also relates to the giant wall grids of Sol LeWitt, which are displayed only a few rooms away.

The title itself is taken from a written message on the back of one postcard and points to the evidential nature of photography and its function in postcards (“This proves I was really here”). It seems also to allude to the ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ motif in art, the idea that death awaits us even in an earthly paradise. The commodification of nature through tourism, and specifically through the postcard is one of the subjects of this work. It “offers a filter for exploring the ways in which cultural constructions have mapped, shaped, and framed the geography and topography of North America over time.” (-Dia Art Foundation press release)

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