American artist adorns the Renwick Gallery with 5000 to create a sense of wonder
The installation, In the Midnight Garden, is one of nine pieces featured in a larger exhibition called Wonder
Intricate geometric patterns of insects cover lurid pink walls inside the recently renovated Renwick Gallery in Washington DC, as part of an exhibition exploring the concept of wonder.
American artist Jennifer Angus – who is acclaimed for her artistic installations using insects – is behind the work, titled In the Midnight Garden. To complete the piece, she selected 5,000 preserved insects from a variety of brightly-coloured Southeast Asian species and arranged them in patterns of swirls, spirals and even skulls designed to resemble unorthodox wallpaper.
The piece has been designed to alter the context in which visitors encounter such species and demonstrate how much of the natural world remains a mystery.
The installation is one of nine pieces featured in a larger exhibition called Wonder, which launched last month in gallery – a component of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Artists Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin and Leo Villareal also created pieces for the gallery; utilising materials as varied as marbles, index cards and rubber tyres to create remarkable and vivid sculptures.
Each artist was selected based on their own unique process, chosen material and ability to transform a space and create a sense of amazement. All nine were invited to select a gallery while the building was closed for a two-year renovation and build an installation to match the room.
“These nine artists are masters of constructing works that startle us, overwhelm us and invite us to marvel and to wonder at their creation,” said Betsy Broun, a director at the Smithsonian. “These elements matter in the context of this museum, devoted for more than four decades to the skilled working of materials in extraordinary ways.”
Angus’s gallery, located on the second floor, will close on 8 May, 2016, and the first-floor galleries will close on 10 July, 2016 to allow for the reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection of art.
Angus has previously defended her decision to work with insects which have been killed, arguing that she uses farmed insects when she can, reuses specimens for all of her works, and does not use endangered species.
In a statement on her website, she said: “Many people who visit my exhibitions were never aware that such unusual insects exist. I hope that my exhibition will get them excited and perhaps they will be motivated to get involved with one of the many of the rainforest preservation projects out there.
“I would also like people to think about their own environment and behaviour. How is urban and suburban encroachment affecting wildlife big and small in your neighbourhood? It is easy to take up the case of larger mammals, birds and fish but what about smaller creatures who have an important role in the ecosystem to play be it pollinating flowers or helping in the decomposition of various matter?”