Exhibitions: Alexis Rockman: Manifest Destiny

Alexis Rockman (American, b. 1962). Manifest Destiny, 2003–4. Oil and acrylic on panel. Courtesy of the artist and Gorney Bravin + Lee, New York

April 17–September 12, 2004

In this 8 x 24-foot commissioned mural, artist Alexis Rockman presents an apocalyptic vision of a future Brooklyn, in which much of the borough is under water as a result of global warming. Rockman, whose works often blend science and fantasy, anticipates ecological disasters that are created by human error or inattention. In Manifest Destiny, Brooklyn is a vast floodplain from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Brooklyn Museum. Familiar landmarks are submerged, creating a new geology that hosts a variety of aquatic plants and animals.

A former columnist and illustrator for Natural History magazine, Alexis Rockman drew upon extensive scientific research, including consultations with NASA climatologists, to create this large-scale work. He also worked closely with architect Diane Lewis, who created detailed architectural renderings of sections of Brooklyn, which Rockman then transformed into an underwater ruin. The architectural drawings are exhibited along with the mural.

Rockman, who believes that the past holds clues to the future, also used the Museum's renowned collection of American paintings for inspiration. Among the works he studied is Albert Bierstadt's iconic Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie (1866), the monumental rendering of a pristine Western landscape before the westward expansion of the railroad.

For his futuristic landscapes, Alexis Rockman consults with biologists, zoologists, and paleontologists and has done field work in remote locations, such as the rainforests in Guyana. Born in 1962, the son of archaeologist Diana Wall, Rockman spent a part of his childhood in a remote section of Peru, as well as endless hours exploring the American Museum of Natural History, where his mother worked for the late Margaret Mead. The exhibitions there have been an important influence on his work.

Rockman studied at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, and at the School of Visual Arts in New York. For nearly two decades he has worked in his own Tribeca studio. His work has been exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions, among them Pulp Art: Vamps, Villains, and Victors from the Robert Lesser Collection, recently presented at the Brooklyn Museum. His work is in many public collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Baltimore Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It is also in several private collections including that of X-Files star Gillian Anderson, who owns Rockman's Ecotourist, a diorama-like painting in which the artist represents himself as a decaying corpse. Rockman has also been a contributor to many publications, and has taught at Columbia and Harvard Universities.

Alexis Rockman: Manifest Destiny is organized by Tumelo Mosaka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from Tim Nye—The MAT Charitable Foundation & Foundation 20 21, and the Dorothea Leonhardt Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas. The May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation and Pamela and Paul Johnson supported publication of the exhibition catalogue.