With AF Projects at Frieze – Backlot Projects
For Frieze Los Angeles, international artist Tavares Strachan has created a site-specific neon sculpture that reads “Sometimes Lies Are Prettier”, sited in the heart of Hollywood. The work, in this context, speaks to both spectacle and protest summoning Hollywood’s desire to drive fantasy and our surreal political present.
Through his career, Tavares Strachan has engineered a multidisciplinary artistic practice that mobilizes our visual, intellectual, and emotional faculties. Aeronautical and astronomical science, deep-sea exploration, and extreme climatology are but some of the thematic arenas out of which Strachan creates performative allegories that tell of cultural displacement, human aspiration, and mortal limitation. Strachan’s artistic practice and methodology often circumvent the usual narrative functioning in a more unconventional framework. Strachan’s ambitious and open-ended practice examines the intersection of art, science, and the environment, and has included collaborations with numerous organizations and institutions across the disciplines.
One of Strachan’s most iconic projects was, The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want, 2006, for which he embarked on a journey to the Alaskan Arctic to excavate a 4.5-ton block of ice which was then transported via FedEx to his native Bahamas and displayed in a solar-powered freezer in the courtyard of his childhood elementary school. The piece is both physically arresting and metaphorically resonant, referencing the fragility of Earth’s homeostatic systems, the strange poetry of cultural and physical displacement, as well as the little-known contributions of Matthew Henson—an under-recognized American explorer and the co-discoverer of the North Pole.
In 2004, Strachan initiated an ambitious four-year multimedia body of work entitled Orthostatic Tolerance—the title referring to the physiological stress that cosmonauts endure while exiting and re-entering Earth from outer space. Exhibited in phases between 2008 and 2011, the Orthostatic Tolerance project incorporated photography, video, drawing, sculpture and installation documenting Strachan’s experience in cosmonaut training at the Yuri Gagarin Training Center in Star City, Russia and in experiments in space travel conducted in Nassau under the Bahamas Air and Space Exploration Center (BASEC)—the artist’s version of NASA for his native country.
In 2011, Strachan exhibited Seen/Unseen—a survey exhibition of past and present works—at an undisclosed location in New York City that was deliberately closed to the general public. Exploring themes of presence and absence, the exhibition focused on the artist’s critical mandate of positioning works in such a way that some of their aspects are visible while others remain conceptual, asserting the exhibition itself is a work of art in its own right. Both ambitious in scope and disruptive to expectations, Seen/Unseen manifested a type of meditative experience, presenting over 50 works from drawings, photographs, video works, sculpture, and installations in a massive 20,000-square-foot industrial space converted specifically for the exhibition. While access to “Seen/Unseen” was restricted to the organizers, the exhibition itself was fully documented with a website and an illustrated catalogue designed by Stefan Sagmeister.
On December 3, 2018, Strachan launched his project ENOCH into space. Created in collaboration with LACMA Art + Technology Lab, ENOCH is centered around the development and launch of a 3U satellite that brings to light the forgotten story of Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African American astronaut selected for any national space program. The satellite launched via Spaceflight’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The sculpture will continue to circle the Earth for seven years in a sun-synchronous orbit.
Strachan was born in 1979 in Nassau, Bahamas, and currently lives and works between New York City and Nassau, Bahamas. He received a BFA in Glass from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003 and an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University in 2006. Strachan’s work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions including You Belong Here, Prospect 3. Biennial, New Orleans; The Immeasurable Daydream, Biennale de Lyon, Lyon; Polar Eclipse, The Bahamas National Pavilion 55th Venice Biennale, Venice; Seen/Unseen, Undisclosed Exhibition, New York; Orthostatic Tolerance: It Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea if I Never Went Home Again, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge; Orthostatic Tolerance: Launching into an Infinite Distance, Grand Arts, Kansas City; and You Can Do Whatever You Like (Orthostatic Tolerance Project), Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; among others.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2018 Inaugural Allen Institute Artist in Residency Recipient, 2018 Frontier Art Prize, 2014 LACMA Art + Technology Lab Artist Grant, 2008 Tiffany Foundation Grant, 2007 Grand Arts Residency Fellowship, and 2006 Alice B. Kimball Fellowship.