James Prosek Avian Silhouettes

January 15, 2020 - August 15, 2021

Artist and naturalist James Prosek is passionate about the preservation of wildlife and their habitats. In this installation, he has created his own avian ecosystem, using life-size avian silhouettes that channel the famous field guides of Roger Tory Peterson and the historic full-size birds of John James Audubon. The endpapers of Peterson’s field guides feature “Roadside Silhouettes,“ and “Flight Silhouettes,“ with each bird numbered and their species identified in a key. Peterson used silhouettes because, as with portraits of people, they are the easiest images for quick identification. While Prosek’s birds are also numbered, he provides no key, striking a mordant tone, alluding to the elegiac function of portrait silhouettes the preserve likenesses of deceased persons for posterity.  They warned the viewer about the vulnerability of Earth’s fragile ecology, as well as the threat of species extinction. The title of Prosek’s mural derives from a sonnet by Robert Frost. At the center hangs Prosek’s panel with its densely packed vortex of birds. It evokes America at the time of Audubon, when species were abundant and some, like the extinct Passenger Pigeon, darkened the skies as in a solar eclipse. Visit these works in our 2nd Floor Corridor Gallery. 

Featuring: James Prosek (b. 1975). Never Again Would Birds' Song Be The Same, 2019; Avian Composition with Warblers, 2018. Acrylic paint; acrylic paint on panel. Courtesy of the artist and Waqas Wajahat, New York

Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.



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Creative: Tronvig Group