It seems to be a case of art imitating art. Just three years ago filmmaker Ang Lee commissioned Alexis Rockman to conceptualize the visuals for the Academy Award-winning Life of Pi, and now the resulting work is hanging in one of the artist’s two shows, currently drawing in-the-know crowds in Soho.
Indeed, in both Alexis Rockman: Drawings from Life of Pi at the Drawing Center (through November 3) and Alexis Rockman: Rubicon at Sperone Westwater Gallery (through November 2), the artist explores the themes of nature and civilization. “I have always responded to the immersive sensations of panoramas, cycloramas and dioramas,” Rockman tells DuJour. “As a New York City kid who grew up near Central Park, I was exposed to nature primarily in the American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo.” It’s no wonder he was tapped for Life of Pi.
“I met Ang through Jean Castelli, a producer on the project,” Rockman explains. “He suggested me as an artist who might help visualize specific parts of the script. [Lee] was interested in fantastic imagery that was believable, yet never been seen before.”
The work—a collection of watercolor drawings—was more than just a means to an end, as Brett Littman, executive director of The Drawing Center, sees it.”This show explores issues that are very relevant to the future of drawing,” he says of the ink-and-watercolor images of sea creatures, jellyfish and plankton as well as figurative and abstract drawings. “The exhibition takes a focused look at the relationship between drawing and feature film, the passage of analog images into digital images and the collaboration between a visual artist and a director.”
Still, the two shows feature very different sides of the artist. “There was some overlap, but not much,” Rockman says. “The Sperone Westwater show took almost two years. Pi was finished for me by July 2012.”
And now that they’re both up? Well, there’s one thing they have in common. “It means a lot to me,” Rockman says, “to have both shows up near where I work and live.”
Click through the gallery to see works from “Alexis Rockman: Drawings from Life of Pi”