Culture Clash: Man and Nature in the Work of Vikky Alexander

A lush greenhouse, a zoo, a houseplant, a pet. Charming diversions, sure, but, if you think about it, these are also potent symbols of man’s complex relationship with nature. That disconnect is the subject of much of artist Vikky Alexander’s conceptual photography work. In her latest exhibition, “Theatergarden Beastiarium,” on view at Wilding Cran Gallery in Los Angeles, an alligator approaches what appears to be an ornate cupcake-like carousel in a verdant park. The beast is out of scale, nearly as large as the building, and it appears somehow less crisp—slightly out of focus even—as though it’s part of a different world. Perhaps because it is.  

These images, presented as large-format photographic prints, are actually postcard-sized collages that have been scanned and blown up. Alexander’s source material for the show includes found postcards of architectural marvels, museums, palaces, and manicured gardens: relics of the old world. She then populates these scenes with animals pulled from a catalogue of German-made replicas. Elevated by scale and setting, the animals take on the gravitas of a wealthy patron in a portrait—like a lynx lounging in the Wallace Collection drawing room in London. Along with these pastiches, Alexander has also created a series of drawings of suburban Parisian pavilions built just before the 1789 revolution. These, too, are surrounded by out-of-place animals, seemingly set free to reclaim the city.  

The works in the show deal with some of the same fundamental issues Alexander has addressed throughout her career: the collision of culture and nature, and the ways in which human beings disrupt the natural world in an effort to control it. Her investigations into this subject include the fantastical collages seen here, a series about man-made interior landscaping at malls, natural wonders seen in reflection, and a black-and-white series of photographs of the Palm House in Kew Gardens, England. Nature, one degree removed.

Theatergarden Beastiarium” is on view at Wilding Cran, Los Angeles, Sept. 20 – Nov. 1, 2014.

—Heather Corcoran

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