Tayloe Piggott Gallery is pleased to present “Coordinates Unknown,” an exhibition with artist Russell Crotty, on view from February 7th through March 21st. Internationally recognized for his astronomical and surf-inspired draftsmanship in various large-scale formats, this exhibition presents new multimedia work with a Surrealist bent. From the 2017-solar-eclipse-inspired Coronagraph series to Crotty’s imagined Martian landscapes, his work imagines an unearthly, preternatural world of the future rendered in materials grounded firmly in the organic history of now.
Russell Crotty is fascinating to talk to—an accomplished visual artist, his rhetoric reads equal parts historian, amateur astronomer, numbers-challenged astrophysicist, and passionate outdoor recreationist. For decades the California-born artist has been practicing amateur astronomy from his backyard, using a series of his own 8- to 12-inch Newtonian telescopes to create celestial studies which have formed the basis of this artistic output since the 1990s. Following a residency at the prestigious Lick Observatory as part of the Institute of Arts and Sciences at UC Santa Cruz, he became hooked on the topic of exoplanets, recently discovered planets orbiting other star systems that have potential to sustain life. He genuinely feels as though we’re poised on the cusp of the next major astronomical discovery, or wave of discoveries, as in the time of Galileo.
Crotty’s new body of work references early art movements such as Surrealism, Finish Fetish from the 1960s, process experimentation from the 1970s, Modernism and retro Sci-Fi. His process begins with works on paper, drawn with sticks dipped in ink (with a nod to Matisse), then overlaid with 3-dimensional plastic, fiberglass and tinted bio-resin, which he started experimenting with about six years ago. Derived from pine sap, bio-resin is a safer and eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based resins, and, in the artist’s words, “holds color really nicely.” Smaller drawings and found plastics are embedded in these materials, forming distorted views of both terrestrial and alien formations. The structures of habitats, outposts, landers, and piers float in the seductive bio-resin color fields; suggesting strange atmospheres and landscapes.
Russell Crotty has exhibited both nationally and internationally. Notable recent solo shows include Look Back in Time at the San José Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and Peidre la Nuit (Painting the Night) at the Centre Pompidou-Metz. The Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) hosted his first solo museum show on the east coast in 2004. His work is included in the permanent collections of major institutions including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; MoMA, New York; MOCA, Los Angeles; LACMA, Los Angeles; and the Princeton University Art Museum. In 2007 he was commissioned to create a site-specific installation of globe drawings for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, and became a Guggenheim Fellow in 2015. The artist currently lives in Ojai and works in Ventura, California.