Langdon Graves, ‘Red Over Red’, 2013, VICTORI+MO CONTEMPORARY

In this stunning 2013 body of work (Earth and Water, Together as They Fall, Red over Red, Asclepius), Langdon presents an exploration of the human body through fragments of bone, tissue, metaphor and belief, inspired by the ancient Greek philosophical treatise On Nature by Empedocles of Acragas. Regarded as the first physical materialist and the father of the four primary elements of matter, Empedocles’ theories planted the seeds for the development of atomist theory. In verse rich with imagery he describes a slow evolutionary scenario not unlike Darwin’s of the formation of species. His cosmogony is based on a continuous cycle he calls 'Philia' and 'Neikos', throughout which all matter in the universe fluctuates between phases of order and chaos, coming together or splitting apart.

Seemingly inconsistent with these proposals, throughout 'On Nature' Empedocles also inserts the divine powers of the gods of ancient Greece, who work together with time and natural forces to create the human species from bone to hair follicle. This curious harmony of scientific approach and theological credence resonates with Langdon’s ongoing interest in the relationship of science and religion, particularly regarding mind and body.

Empedocles' account and description of human origins begins with disembodied limbs and organs formed by the ocean's continual meeting with the shore, wandering grotesquely separate until gradually joining to form a body. The works in this series illustrate his descriptions of anatomical fragments as if placed on a dissecting table, mixed with references to botanical material and remedies, surgical procedures, and various religious ideas and rituals.

About Langdon Graves

In her drawings and sculptures, Langdon Graves depicts disembodied parts of the human form, homing in on eyes, ears, and teeth, and manipulating them with meticulous technical skill. She introduces unusual qualities, such as bees teeming around a pair of hands, or sculptures in which imagined domestic objects are imbued with corporeal innards. Case, for example, is a sea foam-colored pillow-like object sprouting hair, with a red “organelle” seeping out of a half-open zipper. For Graves, her objects and drawings are steeped in folk traditions and mysticism, and interrogate the construction of reality and beliefs. “The work on the whole seeks to reveal that a reality constructed by our beliefs and one determined by actual events are one and the same,” she has said.

American, b. 1978, Virginia, United States, based in Brooklyn, NY, United States