Magazine article Artforum International

Alexis Rockman

Magazine article Artforum International

Alexis Rockman

Article excerpt

Alexis Rockman's new series of paintings, collectively titled "Biosphere," 1992-93, is inspired by one of the artist's favorite movies, Silent Running, 1971. I've seen this film several times, although many of its details (no doubt indelibly etched on Rockman's mind) remain vague to me--this movie tends to be a late-late-night treat. As I recall, it involves greenhouses in space that preserve the flora and fauna of Earth. When for some reason the mission must be aborted, chief gardener Bruce Dern--psycho character-actor par excellence--murders his fellow crew members rather than sacrifice his precious biospheres. He then continues to tend garden with three midget robots (actually manned in the film by limbless amputees). The rest of the movie chronicles his descent into full-fledged--what? It's clear from the start that he's nuts. Maybe being severely bummed out is the frosting on the cake of the Dern character's psychosis.

Rockman has tapped into a rich vein of psychotronic cinematic pleasure, so it's doubly disappointing that "Biosphere" is such a bore: disappointing, one, because he does so little with the given narrative material other than graft onto his by now familiar mutant-animal freaks; and, two, because his painterly technique, always impressive, seems here flattened out, airless, merely illustrational. The paintings are, quite simply, dumb, and no amount of technical flourish, no sparkle of Bleckneresque twinkle-twinkle-little-star, can change that fact. …

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