Beneath a Petroliferous Moon
Jen Budney, Vaclav Smil, Marcella Durand, and Pablo Neruda
The Mendel Gallery
80 pp 45 col. ill. 8.5 x 6.5 in hardcover
$24.99 Can. $29.99 U.S.
Petroleum, in its extraction, distribution, economics, and social, political, and environmental impacts, defines our contemporary world, yet in the developed countries that consume it most, oil remains conspicuously invisible. Taking its title from Pablo Neruda's 1940 poem, Standard Oil Co., this survey of artistic responses to the oil industry from artists around the world offers a spectacular range of ideas. While some artists focus on petroleum's environmental impacts, others choose to respond to its social significance, its modern history, or the awe-inspiring visuals of the industry's infrastructure and detritus. Works in the exhibition include: masks fashioned from jerry cans and found objects by the Yoruba artist Romuald Hazoume, of Benin; kinetic sculpture based upon the tar sands of northern Alberta by Calgary artist Robyn Moody; lace-like sculptures made from oil drums by New York-based Canadian artist Cal Lane; photographs, drawings, and videos made in Arctic Canada by Vermont artist and farmer Louisa Conrad; documents and drawings by Austrian artist Ernst Logar made in the Scottish oil town of Aberdeen; a delicately carved jerry can by Vancouver's Brian Jungen; a video set in North America's first oil town, Oil City, Pennsylvania, by Ohio artist Robert Ladislas Derr; a large sculpture based on oil drums and advertising by Cherokee artist Jimmie Durham (Rome/Berlin); photographs of the Alberta tar sands by renowned Toronto photographer Edward Burtynsky; drawings and sculpture inspired by the Exxon Valdez disaster by expat Canadian artist Susan Turcot (UK); and a billboard by Saskatoon artist David LaRiviere.
Jen Budney is Associate Curator at the Mendel Gallery. Vaclav Smil is a scientist, policy analyst and Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba. Marcella Durand is the author of AREA (Belladonna Books) and Traffic & Weather (Futurepoem Books).
".....beneath a petroliferous moon,
a subtle change of ministers
in the capital, a whisper
like an oil tide,
and zap, you’ll see
how Standard Oil’s letters shine above the clouds,
above the seas, in your home,
illuminating their dominions."
from 'Standard Oil Co.' Pablo Neruda