Floating Cities: Swoon at Brooklyn Museum
April 28, 2014

Swoon is arguably one of the most well-known contemporary female artists working in the street genre.  Known for her intimate and skillfully rendered  wheat paste prints of figures, Swoon has been working on installations and inhabitable structures the world over that are simultaneously fantastical, yet warm and humane.  Her immersive installation, Submerged Motherlands, currently fills the rotunda of the Brooklyn Museum.  

Anchoring the installation is a large tree composed of natural materials, including delicate paper cut-outs and dyed fabric, serving as a powerful reminder of the pulsating energy emanating from and within life around us.  

The installation also features a pair of teetering house-boat-like structures.  Moored at opposite ends, the boats suggest a recent history, as if they have just washed up on-shore.  In fact, these boats were initially created as a collaborative effort among Swoon and many others (all credited in a wall text to the installation); the boats had a maiden voyage down the Hudson River in 2008, and then were sent to Slovenia where they were re-constructed and sailed down the Grand Canal during the 2009 Venezia Biennale.

Throughout the installation, Swoon's signature paper cut-outs of women, children, shaman-like archetypes and abstract faunal patterns inhabit the environment.

While an absolutely stunning installation that is contemplative and awe-inspiring, I couldn't help but feel that Swoon's work is best viewed in a living, breathing space, where her work has the opportunity of being seen by all and perhaps weathers in its natural environs (cf, Moran Street in Detroit or Konbit Shelter in Haiti).  Of course, I don't mean to imply that Swoon's artwork shouldn't be seen in a museum--anything but, given her singular world view and sense of scale and beauty.  Hopefully, her show at the Brooklyn Museum will provide museumgoers an impetus to go see (and support) Swoon's work in the great outdoors.

Swoon: Submerged Motherlands is at Brooklyn Museum until August 24, 2014.


PS: Every large-scale installation that I see these days is somehow related to the brains and brawn of Doyle, who was one of Swoon's original collaborators on the boats.  Thanks for showing us around!