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Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
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Mark Dion at Tanya Bonakdar


Multimedia artist Mark Dion is known for his cabinet-of-curiosity installations, which often find him partnering with scientists or various cultural institutions through which he mines archives and archeological artifacts. In “Theatre of Extinction,” the artist muses on not only the extinction of plant and animal life, but our own impending human demise (fun stuff). Yet, despite the anxiety-laden subject matter, Dion’s penchant for aesthetically organized objects gives the exhibition a playful air. 

“Cabinet of Marine Debris – East Coast/West Coast” is essentially what it sounds like, a display of plastic junk organized by shape and color into rows of barnacle-covered Gatorade bottles and rainbow-hued Bic lighters. A nearby sculpture features a dodo bird skeleton perched atop a bed of tar layered with similar trinkets, as if the collected Euros, figurines, and dice were directly connected to the extinct creature’s downfall. 

Dion’s drawings, also on display, delve even deeper to allow for more cerebral connections. On a large illustration of a Plesiosaurus skeleton, Dion overlays a muddled historical timeline that mixes major world events (such as the fall of the Berlin Wall) with notable touchstones across music, literature, and culture. Other works superimpose scientific drawings with unrelated lists with wry humor. One drawing, for example, presents “Some Noteworthy Bird Beaks,” beneath which Dion notes a notable artist from modern art history (John Baldessari, On Kawara, and Yoko Ono, to name a few). While Dion’s exhibition presents real and impending ecological dangers, he also toys with scientific categorization, as if to point out the whimsy involved in scientific study itself.

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Photo: Mark Dion, Cabinet of Extinction (detail) (2022). Image courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles.