Alison Carey: New Kingdoms

September 8 – October 5, 2013
Public Reception: Sunday, September 8, 3:00 – 6:00pm
Curated by Anne Harris

The Riverside Arts Center Freeark Gallery is pleased to present New Kingdoms, an exhibition of photography and sculpture by Alison Carey. Carey is known for her biomorphic constructions ‐‐ elaborately staged dioramas populated by figurative inventions. Photography transforms these into dream worlds that range from the deepest surreal landscapes to the compressed microcosm inside a scientific slide. The nocturnal oddities inhabiting these spaces are species invented by Carey, possible “after the fall” replacements for life on earth after man‐made annihilation. Inspired by scientific innovations in tissue cultivation, they tweak our fascination with the grotesque while raising larger questions about viability, sustainability, invention, the dangers and responsibilities of creation, as well as the relationship between strangeness and beauty.

While Carey can be viewed in the context of other contemporary photographers who stage photographic vignettes ‐‐ from the “film‐scapes” of Gregory Crewdson to the still‐lives of Laura Letinsky or Jan Groover — she keeps better company with Ernst Haeckel, the 19th century naturalist and artist who promoted and attempted to expand upon Charles Darwin’s theories.  While much of Haeckel’s theoretical work proved erroneous, he left a legacy of meticulous illustrations that demonstrate his belief that the artist’s role in science required “scrupulosity and conscientiousness.” Carey subsumes herself in her own fictitious creations, in their compulsive production, their systematic evolution, and in the quirks of her own artistic practice. Her ever‐expanding studio occupies the large majority of her apartment, and she spends most nights, all night, molding and constructing her otherworldly environs. With the 19th century eccentricity of the devoted amateur Carey steps outside the contemporary art/photography conversation to straddle science. In doing so, she has devised a uniquely visual science fiction that immerses us in a future netherworld, a fantastical, hypnotic possibility — the consequence of our own demise.

Alison Carey received her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1988, and her MFA from the University of New Mexico in 2005. Her work is in public collections such as the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and the New Mexico History Museum, and has been exhibited at such venues as the Pingyao International Photography Festival in Pingyao, China; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL; Michael Mazzeo Gallery New York, NY; the Noorderlicht International Photo‐festival, the Netherlands; and the International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago, IL. She currently lives in Chicago and is Associate Professor of Photography at Columbia College.