Galerie Max Hetzler is pleased to announce Aquarelle, a solo exhibition of recent works by Walton Ford at Bleibtreustraße 45, Berlin. This is the artist’s first solo presentation with the gallery.

Ford is known for his monumental and extremely detailed watercolours depicting wild animals. His works expand upon the visual language and narrative scope of traditional natural history painting. Influenced by historical sources such as the illustrations of John James Audubon (1785-1851), who gained popularity with his life-sized drawings of birds, the artist creates works of a unique luminosity in watercolour, gouache, and ink. Drawing from a variety of sources, including scientific illustrations, historical events, underground comics, literature, films, and myths, he creates unique, surreal stories with a spark of black humour.

“When I read a story that gives me an idea for a picture,” he explains, “I try to bring elements to the painting that are not contained in the text, so there’s a visual dimension to it you could never find elsewhere.”

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Ford’s masterfully precise way of working presents minutely detailed renderings of individual species and their behavioural patterns, and foregrounds the cultural-historical encounter between animals and humans as well.

Many of the works on view at Galerie Max Hetzler powerfully reflect on bizarre and often violent encounters between humans and wildlife, and their consequences. Although animals such as monkeys, felines, wolves, bears, and birds are undoubtedly the main protagonists in the artist's works, and human figures rarely appear, their presence is always implied.

In the work Suicide Clutch (2021), a motorcycle has been attacked by a large, snarling cheetah, suggesting a near-fatal encounter between man and beast. In The Flaming Fields (2020), Mount Vesuvius dramatically spits clouds of fire and ash in the background, illuminating the night sky, whilst Sir William Hamilton’s pet monkey climbs a classical marble sculpture on the overlooking balcony. Relics of human achievement, such as a magnifying glass, telescope, and a notebook, are arranged in a manner reminiscent of a vanitas still life. In Detested (2020), Ford portrays a mandrill in a tug-of-war with Oskar Kokoshka (1886-1980) and the artist’s painting of the primate, commenting on the grandiose egotism of artists. Other works such as Threnos (2020) and MORGUNDÖGG (2020) draw strongly from ancient mythology, reflecting on man’s history with—and deepest instincts towards—animals, with attitudes alternating between fear and awe.

In this way, Ford creates an exotic cosmos of spectacular man-made stories. In dazzling colours, his works reveal a fragile alliance between civilisation and wilderness, beauty and brutality.

“I’ve been working on this project of the imagined animal, of the animal in human culture rather than the animal in nature, for the past twenty years. The animal that walks around in nature without people there doesn’t interest me, but when it comes in contact with people, suddenly there’s a story. I’m very interested in fairy tales, hunting narratives, museums of natural history, exploration, and all these different ways in which people are put in contact with wild animals that they don’t fully understand.”

Walton Ford

WORKS

Detested, 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
152.5 x 212 cm.; 60 x 83 1/2 in.
172 x 231.5 x 6.5 cm.; 67 3/4 x 91 1/8 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)

Suicide Clutch, 2021
watercolour, gouache, and ink on paper
152.5 x 213 cm.; 60 x 83 7/8 in.
172 x 232.5 x 6.5 cm.; 67 3/4 x 91 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)

Detested, 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
152.5 x 212 cm.; 60 x 83 1/2 in.
172 x 231.5 x 6.5 cm.; 67 3/4 x 91 1/8 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)

Detested (detail), 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
152.5 x 212 cm.; 60 x 83 1/2 in.
172 x 231.5 x 6.5 cm.; 67 3/4 x 91 1/8 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)
Installation view: Berlin, Bleibtreustraße 45

Suicide Clutch, 2021
watercolour, gouache, and ink on paper
152.5 x 213 cm.; 60 x 83 7/8 in.
172 x 232.5 x 6.5 cm.; 67 3/4 x 91 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)

Suicide Clutch (detail), 2021
watercolour, gouache, and ink on paper
152.5 x 213 cm.; 60 x 83 7/8 in.
172 x 232.5 x 6.5 cm.; 67 3/4 x 91 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)
Installation view: Berlin, Bleibtreustraße 45

Threnos, 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
152 x 304 cm.; 59 7/8 x 119 3/4 in.
173 x 323.5 x 6.5 cm.; 68 1/8 x 127 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)

The Flaming Fields, 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
212 x 153 cm.; 83 1/2 x 60 1/4 in.
232 x 171.5 x 6.5 cm.; 91 3/8 x 67 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)

Threnos, 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
152 x 304 cm.; 59 7/8 x 119 3/4 in.
173 x 323.5 x 6.5 cm.; 68 1/8 x 127 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)

Threnos (detail), 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
152 x 304 cm.; 59 7/8 x 119 3/4 in.
173 x 323.5 x 6.5 cm.; 68 1/8 x 127 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)
Installation view: Berlin, Bleibtreustraße 45

The Flaming Fields, 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
212 x 153 cm.; 83 1/2 x 60 1/4 in.
232 x 171.5 x 6.5 cm.; 91 3/8 x 67 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)

The Flaming Fields (detail), 2020
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
212 x 153 cm.; 83 1/2 x 60 1/4 in.
232 x 171.5 x 6.5 cm.; 91 3/8 x 67 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (framed)
Installation view: Berlin, Bleibtreustraße 45

MORGUNDÖGG, 2020
watercolour, gouache, India ink and pencil on paper
305 x 152.5 cm.; 120 1/8 x 60 in.
323.5 x 173 cm.; 127 3/8 x 68 1/8 in. (framed)

Spasmodic Affection, 2019
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
273 x 152.5 cm.; 107 1/2 x 60 in.
283 x 162 x 8.9 cm.; 111 3/8 x 63 3/4 x 3 1/2 in. (framed)

MORGUNDÖGG, 2020
watercolour, gouache, India ink and pencil on paper
305 x 152.5 cm.; 120 1/8 x 60 in.
323.5 x 173 cm.; 127 3/8 x 68 1/8 in. (framed)

MORGUNDÖGG (detail), 2020
watercolour, gouache, India ink and pencil on paper
305 x 152.5 cm.; 120 1/8 x 60 in.
323.5 x 173 cm.; 127 3/8 x 68 1/8 in. (framed)
Installation view: Berlin, Bleibtreustraße 45

Spasmodic Affection, 2019
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
273 x 152.5 cm.; 107 1/2 x 60 in.
283 x 162 x 8.9 cm.; 111 3/8 x 63 3/4 x 3 1/2 in. (framed)

Spasmodic Affection (details), 2019
watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
273 x 152.5 cm.; 107 1/2 x 60 in.
283 x 162 x 8.9 cm.; 111 3/8 x 63 3/4 x 3 1/2 in. (framed)
Installation view: Berlin, Bleibtreustraße 45

La Madre, 2017
watercolour, gouache, and ink on paper, mounted on aluminum panel
274.5 x 366 cm.; 108 1/8 x 144 1/8 in.
281 x 372 x 10 cm.; 110 5/8 x 146 1/2 x 4 in. (framed)

La Madre, 2017
watercolour, gouache, and ink on paper, mounted on aluminum panel
274.5 x 366 cm.; 108 1/8 x 144 1/8 in.
281 x 372 x 10 cm.; 110 5/8 x 146 1/2 x 4 in. (framed)

La Madre (detail), 2017
watercolour, gouache, and ink on paper, mounted on aluminum panel
274.5 x 366 cm.; 108 1/8 x 144 1/8 in.
281 x 372 x 10 cm.; 110 5/8 x 146 1/2 x 4 in. (framed)
Installation view: Berlin, Bleibtreustraße 45

Walton Ford (*1960) lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held in international institutions, such as Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris (2015); Hamburger Bahnhof Museum fur Gegenwart, Berlin; Albertina, Vienna; and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2010–2011); Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio; and Brooklyn Museum, New York (2006–2007). Ford’s work is in the collections of the Albertina Museum, Vienna; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain; Princeton Art Museum, Princeton; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

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Walton Ford (*1960) lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held in international institutions, such as Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris (2015); Hamburger Bahnhof Museum fur Gegenwart, Berlin; Albertina, Vienna; and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2010–2011); Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio; and Brooklyn Museum, New York (2006–2007). Ford’s work is in the collections of the Albertina Museum, Vienna; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain; Princeton Art Museum, Princeton; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

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