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Artist Dave Hullfish Bailey seeks to disrupt the way we think about our interactions with the environment in the Anthropocene age, our current geological era, which is marked by significant human impact on the earth’s environmental systems and climate. In the latest installment of Currents, the Museum’s popular contemporary art series, the artist takes the Missouri River watershed and the aquifers of the High Plains as a starting point to investigate the connections among art, geography, and the environment through photographs, drawings, and large-scale sculptures.

Using a process he calls “speculative geography,” the artist conducts rigorous research into the local histories, environmental issues, and social organizations of a specific area and then proposes an aesthetic action or project for a site, building new possibilities out of existing material and environmental relationships. Here he asks how a network of small dams might support new uses of arid lands across the High Plains region, representing these proposals through hand-annotated maps and texts. Two sculptures in the gallery embed these site-based proposals within overarching notions of nature and human histories. Through these works, Bailey illuminates the connections among water scarcity, imperiled aquifers, and human exploitation of resources.

Bailey is the recipient of the 2018–2019 Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Fellowship, which includes a residency at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis and a Currents exhibition at the Museum. The Museum’s Currents series is dedicated to the ongoing presentation of new works of contemporary art by living artists.

Currents 117: Dave Hullfish Bailey is curated by Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, with Molly Moog, research assistant. The exhibition is supported in part by the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Endowment Fund.

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