The Jack Hanley Gallery is pleased to present selections from Jessica Rath’s take me to the apple breeder, a three project steeped in plant genetics, specifically what science journalist Michael Pollan described as Cornell University’s “Noah’s Ark of orchards” in his book Botany of Desire. The exhibition includes porcelain sculptures alluding to the odd forms and luminescent hues of unknown and endangered apples and large-scale photographic portraits of newly designed hybrid trees, both artifacts of a conceptual project resulting from visits to Cornell’s agricultural research stations.
With this work, Rath reminds us that edible fruits are not born of nature, but cultural objects carefully preserved through grafting. Isolated from natural selection, their finely tuned genetics geared to our consumption have created an Achilles’ heel in terms of their own survival. The exhibition is made up of the nine sculptures capturing these dying fruit and portraits of the new breeds, revealed in the architecture of trees mid-winter against white muslin backdrops. take me to the apple breeder reflects both the desire of Cornell’s apple curator Philip Forsline who has traveled the world to “save” endangered varieties, and the work of Dr. Susan Brown, one of only three apple breeders in the country creating new apples for mass consumption.
Investigating at the point of human intervention in the natural world, Rath questions the naturalist, artist and scientist’s drive to contain and beget beauty within the landscape, whether in the cultivated ground of agriculture and in our own backyards. Sublime and haunting, the work documents diversity at a molecular level and evokes the grace found within survival.
Jessica received a BA from University of Missouri in 1990, an MFA from California Institute for the Arts in 1996 and studied at School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Recent solo exhibitions include Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design; Torrance Art Museum; and an upcoming exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. She recently received a Center for Cultural Innovation Investing in Artists grant and was visiting artist faculty at California Institute for the Arts in 2011/2012. This is the Los Angeles-based artist’s first New York solo show.