In Dusk is the Mouth of Night, Ryan Pierce continues his on going series Terra Incognita, which looks to the historical links between natural history exploration and conquest. Several of the paintings use still-life objects to evoke stories from the Golden Age of Exploration (and exploitation). For example the Stanley Falls (2016) image portrays rubber, ivory and a dangling snake preying on a trapped fish. These objects hint at the controversial life of Henry Morton Stanley, the famed explorer of Africa who later aided King Leopold’s Belgian Colony in the Congo, a brutal slave state masquerading as an emancipation movement.
Several of the paintings in Dusk is the Mouth of Night, depict museum interiors destroyed, or perhaps liberated, by the storms of climate change. We learn to regard museums as reverent spaces for the absorption of culture, but many Western museums are comprised of stolen and recontextualised artifacts. In these imagined scenarios, floods and fallen branches have opened these hallowed spaces to the elements. Rather than being damaged, the works within have become animated and infused with mysterious energy.
In conjunction with the closing of Dusk is the Mouth of Night, on July 16 Pierce will release a participatory artist book called Mist Net. Although the book stands alone, it also functions as a collaborative art project with the audience, who can complete the text and images by way of an interactive boat tour of the lower Willamette. The subject of Mist Net is the ecological status of the river during the early days of European settlement, in the present, and in a future shaped by climate change.
Ryan Pierce received his MFA from California College of the Arts in 2007, and a BFA from Oregon College of Art and Craft in 2003. His work has been shown nationally and internationally, including solo shows Sad Gods at Elizabeth Leach Gallery (Portland, OR), Postcards from Paradise at Nine Gallery (Portland, OR) and Night Music, Babel at Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder (Trondheim, Norway). His work has also been shown in group exhibitions such as Summer Field Studies at The Henry Art Gallery (Seattle, WA), The Shape of the Problem at Elizabeth Leach Gallery (Portland, OR) and Aspect/Ratio at Irvine Contemporary (Washington DC). This work was created with the support of The Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Center in New Orleans and the Caldera artists residency.