Spanning two galleries, Unnamed for Decades – an exhibition by Erin Johnson (b. 1985) – presents a series of new site-specific installations that incorporate videos, sculptures, and photographs. These works explore the artist’s ongoing interest in the complexity of collectivity, the wide-ranging consequences of scientific research, as well as dissidence, desire, and the queer body.
The title of the exhibition is drawn from a text about Solanum plastisexum – an Australian bush tomato whose sexual expression has confounded scientists and appears to be unpredictable and unstable, challenging even the fluid norms of the plant kingdom. This enigmatic plant is central to There are things in this world that are yet to be named – a video filmed in Bucknell University’s Solanum plastisexum lab and the Australia section in Los Angeles’s Huntington Botanical Garden – whose voice-over is an amalgamation of texts including love letters between Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman and interviews with botanist Tanisha Williams. In an adjacent series of photographs and video installations, a group of friends, peers, and lovers engage in collective queer and desirous exchanges such as eating tomatoes in a field and floating together in a lake.
Reflecting on feminist theorist Silvia Federici’s call to “reconnect what capitalism has divided: our relation with nature, with others, and our bodies,” the exhibition considers questions surrounding the interrelationship between scientific and political practices, the reinvention of what it means to be human, and climate crisis.
As Ellen Y. Tani, PhD writes in her essay I Might Not Be Here When You Come included in the exhibition publication, “The exhibition’s title, Unnamed for Decades is both a description of an obscure plant and an acknowledgment of certain freedoms discovered in registering the strange, which, long relegated to the margins and unexamined, remains a powerfully latent domain. Life forms can thrive outside of the systems we invent to affirm their existence; in nature, nothing exists alone.”
This exhibition was made possible by the support of the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation. Johnson is the second recipient of the Ellis-Beauregard Fellowship, awarded by jurors Michelle White, Senior Curator at the Menil Collection in Houston, TX ; Marshall Price, PhD, Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; and Marcela Guerrero, Assistant Curator, Whitney Museum, N.Y. The award reflects the vision of the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation founders, artists David Ellis and Joan Beauregard, to support artists with the precious gift of time, and to encourage, expand and sustain the courageous and imaginative dialogue that is fundamental to the arts.
CMCA exhibit shows we can learn a lot from a tomato by Bob Keyes, Portland Press Herald, July 13, 2020
Virtual Opening | Erin Johnson | Unnamed for Decades, July 1, 5:30pm
Photography by Dave Clough
Click on the orange dots in the virtual tour for an audio guide or listen to the compete guide below.