Coinciding with the release of his new feature film, Noah, director Darren Aronofsky presents an exhibition of contemporary art inspired by the biblical story of Noah and the Flood. Fountains of the Deep includes work from 50 internationally recognized artists and is a collaborative effort between Aronofsky and independent curator Dominic Teja Sidhu. The filmmaker personally chose each work of art on display and commissioned many of the artists to create original work specifically for the exhibition: “While writing the script for Noah, I wondered how my favorite artists would interpret the iconic text. So I decided to ask a few of them to return to Genesis and create an image of their own.”
Identifying the story of Noah as humanity’s first apocalyptic tale seems to be the central premise of this exhibition. Genesis 6-9 depicts a world very different from the one we know, and yet its themes of survival, redemption, and new beginnings are entirely familiar. The Creator turns his back on his creation and vows to wipe mankind off the face of the Earth. Yet God has mercy on Noah and instructs him to build an ark that will house himself, his family, and two of every animal that lives on land. Noah does as God commands and though the Earth is flooded by rain for forty days and forty nights, God delivers him from this terrible fate. Noah and his sons are then blessed by God and ordered to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth” (Genesis 9:1). It is a story that is grim and miraculous in the most extreme ways and one which remains exceedingly influential on the arts.
Fountains of the Deep encompasses a great range of genres and media, from painting, sculpture, and photography to commercial illustration and graffiti. In David Scher’s grayscale painting Noah Noah a boat sits stranded atop an island of debris. The image depicts a cloudy, melancholy world in which humanity is left to deal with the consequences of a natural disaster. The work by artists (and identical twin brothers) Doug and Mike Starn titled Bbú Juju painting MV4 gives off a sense of both tragedy and hope. On one hand, the Starn brothers have used bamboo and rope to construct a jumbled object that appears to be in a state of wreckage. Then again, the assembled bamboo resembles a makeshift raft, a symbol for human resourcefulness and survival.
The lower-level gallery is filled with work that is perhaps more unexpected considering the Old Testament-derived theme of the show. Kagen Sound, a woodworker from Colorado known for his Japanese-style secret boxes, designed a box from 59,003 tiny wooden cubes measuring exactly one cubit, the unit of measurement designated by God to be used in the construction of the ark (Genesis 6:15). Commercial artist James Jean interprets the figure of Noah as a sort of allegory of human frailty; the exposed body bleeding into the ocean is painted in the bright, swirling colors for which the Taiwanese painter is known. A bold graphic style is also employed by graffiti duo FAILE in Never Before, Never Again, a collage of images and text referencing both the environmental and emotional impact of the Flood.
Thomas Thiemeyer provides viewers with a very cinematic imagining of the Building of the Ark, which perhaps best anticipates Aronofsky’s film. Thiemeyer is a German author and illustrator whose works have a strong narrative quality and a highly polished fantastical look to them. This particular painting places the ark in sort of sci-fi landscape—a wild world populated by giants and other mythical creatures. The epic nature of the scene reminds us of the monumental impact the story of Noah has had on our culture and how it continues to inspire the visual arts.
Fountains of the Deep is on view at 462 West Broadway through Saturday, March 29.
Noah will premiere in theaters worldwide on Friday, March 28.
- D.L. for MOBIA