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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Jason deCaires Taylor

Molinere Bay Coral Garden, Grenada, Vicissitudes (detail),
Jason deCaires Taylor
One of the brightest spots in the world of art today rests not on painting, or video, or computer generated images (CGI), but with the work of sculptors. There was a time about a hundred years ago that all sculptors came with mallet and chisels with which they attacked a block of stone or wood, or perhaps took on a mound of clay with their bare hands in fashioning a plaster mold for casting bronze. That all changed with Picasso and his assemblage sculptures. For the next several generations, sculpture largely departed from carving (the subtractive method) to slapping together unrelated objects and shapes in an additive method. As exciting as this era and the works that accompanied it may have been, sculpture went into a steep decline as other art media took the spotlight and the non-art world stamped it as "child's play." However, with the revival of figurative art in the 1970s, sculpture, in dozens of media, took on a new relevance. Jason deCaires Taylor was born about this time, in 1974. Today, still only a few years past forty, he is one of the better-known and more audacious sculptors in the world today.
Vicissitudes, Grenada (West Ind, Jason deCaires Taylor
Jason deCaires Taylor works under the sea to create long-lasting sculptural works to help marine life breathe. His Vicissitudes (above) located in the Molinere Bat Coral Garden, is one of his best and best-known works. In seeing the colorful detail (top) from the circular grouping of figures one might think Taylor merely suggests a shape cast in concrete, then allows the underwater sea-life to complete the work, adding color and texture was well as a greater depth of meaning from an environmental perspective. Moreover, for divers, they're also a startling revelation as to what can happen when man and the sea work together rather than at odds one with the other.
Taylor works with live models, plaster, and cast concrete. Heavy-duty "haulers" who help him move and place his works underwater.
Jason deCaires Taylor was born in Dover, Kent county, United Kingdom. Born and raised near the sea, one of the more "arty" areas of England, it seems only natural that Taylor should somehow manage to meld the two together. He studied sculpture at Camberwell College of Arts Institute of London. He graduated in 1998 with a degree in Sculpture and Ceramics. However, as often happens with young artists fresh out of the classroom, he ended up working outside his field of study, in Taylor's case, as a scuba diving instructor. While spending time teaching in the ocean's waters, Taylor also studied marine ecology. He had always envisioned his work in an outdoor space, so it was natural for Taylor to consider creating art in the ocean.
The process, from live model to cast concrete to heavily encrusted coral.
Taylor's sculptures are clean and smooth on the surface when first installed. From that point on, they act as a base for growing magnificent coral reefs. According to Taylor, reefs will develop quickly in tropical cities with warm water. some juvenile corals appear after six months. As time goes on, Taylor's pieces develop biological growths which redefine the underwater landscape. The sculptor uses pH neutral, high-density cement when creating his sculptures. This material is said to last hundreds of years, designed to sustain a reef. After installations, Taylor returns to his projects, to keep an eye on how well the sculptures are developing into reefs.
With each piece weighing several tons, moving and precisely arranging each piece is a delicate, major undertaking.
Above we see the delivery and setup of Taylor's Anthropocene (below).For those not familiar with the term, its the name a proposed era The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems. Neither the International Commission on Stratigraphy nor the International Union of Geological Sciences has yet officially approved the term as a recognized subdivision of geological time. Without a doubt, Taylor's  Anthropocene is his most famous sculptuis one he titles Anthropocene (above) depicting what appears to be a female drowning victim desperately seeking to live by clawing her way inside and some illogical means of survival.

The Gardener of Hope, Jason deCaires Taylor, as it has evolved.
Taylor integrates his skills as a conservationist, underwater photographer, and scuba diver to produce unique installations that encourage the growth of corals and marine life. His early work includes Vicissitudes, Grace Reef, The Lost Correspondent and The Unstill Life. All are located in the world´s first public underwater sculpture park in Molinere Bay, Grenada, West Indies, commissioned in 2006. More recently his most ambitious project to date is the creation of the world's largest underwater sculpture museum, MUSA, situated off the coast of Cancun and the western coast of Isla Mujeres. Works in the museum include Hombre en llamas (Man on Fire), La Jardinera de la Esperanza (The Gardener of Hope, above), El Colecionista de los Sueños (The Dream Collector, below) and La Evolución Silenciosa (The Silent Evolution.)
The Dream Collector, Jason deCaires Taylor
Set in shallow water, it is easy to snorkel and free-dive to swim among the concrete multitude, which seem to be frozen in a slice of life. The higher purpose of Taylor's sculptural works is to create an artificial reef. The process is well underway, with corals and sponges already beginning to thrive, and  schools of reef fish swirling among the statues, where they can escape larger predators.
Man on Fire, Jason deCaires Taylor
Man on Fire (above), was cast from a local fisherman. It stands facing the current with fragments of implanted fire coral in his head and torso. Although it doesn't look like much now, in a few years, as the colorful fire coral "ignites" it will begin to resemble it's title.

Inertia, Jason deCaires Taylor
So far, the artist has created over 900 sculptures, each one telling a different story and highlighting different issues. Whether it is a colony of people standing still, such as Silent Evolution (below), or a man sitting on a couch eating a hamburger while watching television--Inertia (above), Taylor has integrated characteristics of our current society underwater—including actual people. Real people come to his studio and we take a mold to them.

Silent Evolution, Jason deCaires Taylor
The Silent Evolution (above) is Taylor's largest underwater collection of art (perhaps the largest in the world). It was installed in Cancun, Mexico's  Museo Subacuático de Arte in November  of 2010 and consists of 450 life-size cement people standing side by side on a barren patch of sand. The sculptures evoke both contemporary and historical narratives, forming building blocks which develop into a complex artificial reef for aquatic life to inhabit While the appearance of the collection underwater is of a crowd of people, from a distance it take the shape of an eye. The collection occupies over 420 square metres of ocean floor. Its location was chosen to redirect visitors away from nearby natural reefs, allowing them a chance to opportunity to regenerate.

Taylor's updating of Gericault's tragic masterpiece.
One of  Taylor's most striking pieces involves his rendition of Theodore Gericault's 1818 masterpiece, Raft of the Medusa (above). Taylor's figures reflect Gericault's poses and composition peopled with refugees in an inflatable boat (above). The relationship between the two works is as uncanny as it is haunting. The fact that it rests on the bottom of the ocean adds yet another element of if irony and mystery to the work.

The Un-Still-Life, Jason deCaires Taylor. The produce, and the process
Taylor’s art is unlike any other. For lack of a better phrase, one might term it a paradox of creation, constructed to be assimilated by the ocean and transformed from inert objects into living, breathing, coral reefs, portraying human intervention as both positive and life-encouraging. Numerous publications and documentaries have featured his extraordinary work, including the BBC, CNN, USA Today, the Guardian, Vogue, New Scientist and the Discovery Channel, yet nothing can quite do justice to the ephemeral nature of Taylor's art. Each visit to one of his sites is both unique and subject to the dynamic, fluctuating environment of the ocean. Taylor is currently based in Lanzarote part of the Canary Islands working on a major new underwater museum for the Atlantic Ocean.
Unfortunately, photographing Taylor's work
is not this simple.

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