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Indepth Arts News:

"A Site-Specific Large-Scale Installation by British Artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey"
2004-01-22 until 2004-02-29
Rice Unversity Art Gallery
Houston, TX, USA

Using grass as a photographic medium, British artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey will create a site-specific installation at Rice University Art Gallery. On view 22 January - 29 February 2004, the installation mixes art and science, and will be the artists' premier exhibition in the southwestern United States. Ackroyd and Harvey's work embraces site-specific installation, photography, art, architecture, and landscape design. During their month-long residency at Rice Gallery, the artists will create a major new work.

Their medium is nature itself - thousands of grass blades provide a highly uniform light-sensitive surface that is used to create a unique form of photography. Nurtured in carefully controlled light conditions, young grass has a remarkable capacity to produce complex images through the production of the green pigment, chlorophyll. The equivalent tonal range found in a black and white photograph is created in the grass in shades of yellow and green. In past projects, the images were derived from classical sources such as text from Dante's Inferno, mythological scenes, or iconic portraiture. Heather Ackroyd observes: "The images have a ghostly presence; they're sort of there and not there . . . and suggest somehow some possible state after death, which none of us know."

The artists discovered the photosensitive quality of grass accidentally when a ladder leaning against a building they had covered with grass left its outline on the wall. They experimented with different shapes and then with photographic negatives, learning that even under proper conditions the image stayed in the grass for only three weeks. Their interest in fixing the image for a longer period of time led to further investigation with a group of scientists at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) in Aberystwyth, United Kingdom. The team developed a genetically engineered strain of grass, called "SO-GREEN© grass," which prevents the loss of chlorophyll once the grass is dry, allowing the artists' work to last for years. The partnership was beneficial to both art and science. As Leslie Forbes, a BBC radio broadcaster, commented; "Their art has deep resonances in this rapidly browning world of ours, as does the science that has extended the life of their art and made it available to the wider audience it deserves."


Ackroyd and Harvey have worked together since 1990 when they discovered they both used grass as an artistic medium. Heather Ackroyd was born in Yorkshire, England and received a BA Honours degree in Visual Arts and Performance from Crewe & Alsager College of Art, England. Dan Harvey was born in Surrey, England and received a BA Honours degree in Fine Art from Cardiff College of Art, and an MA in sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London. Recent projects include Dilston Grove, a site specific installation with sound by Graeme Miller, Café Projects, Southwark Park, London (2003); Supernatural (after Piero di Cosimo) and Specific Natures, public art works commissioned by the Chicago Cultural Center (2003); Sunbathers, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales (2002), United Kingdom, and Presence, an exhibition of works created during their first solo show at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, Boston (2001). In 2002, their work was featured in the group show Traits of Life at The Exploratorium, San Francisco; and in 2000, their work was included in Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution, Exit Art, New York, and Creating Sparks and Breathless! Photography and Time, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In 1999, Ackroyd and Harvey received the Pioneer Art and Science Award from the National Endowment for Science, Technology & Arts (NESTA), United Kingdom, and in 2000, they received the L'Oreal Art and Science of Colour Grand Prize for their research at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research. Heather, Dan, and their daughter Adele live in Dorking, England. Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey are represented by Artsadmin, London, UK.


The public is invited to hear Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey discuss their work at noon, Friday, 23 January. A complimentary light lunch will be provided to all participants.


Rice Gallery is recognized for dynamic site-specific installation art. Rice Gallery's adventurous programming communicates new ways of thinking about art, and is a catalyst for the free and lively exchange of among artists, the university, and the community at large.


Rice Gallery exhibitions and programs receive major support from Rice Gallery Patrons and Members, The Brown Foundation, Inc., and the Kilgore Endowment. Exhibition catalogues are funded in part by the Robert J. Card, M.D. and Karol Kreymer Catalogue Endowment. The gallery receives partial operating support from the City of Houston through the Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County.

KUHF-FM and Saint Arnold Brewing Company provide in-kind support.

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