Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Artist Whose Medium Is Science

Tavares Strachan is known for his ambitious projects and intensive research, which have included expeditions to the North Pole and training as a cosmonaut in Russia.

Tavares Strachan in his New York City studio, photographed on June 19, 2020.Credit...Maegan Gindi

By Zoƫ Lescaze

RIGHT NOW, SEVERAL hundred miles overhead, a golden urn with the face of a forgotten man is circling Earth, a passenger on a black satellite. “Enoch,” one of Tavares Strachan’s most ambitious works of art, is a tribute to Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African-American astronaut, who died in a supersonic jet crash in 1967 before he could reach space. In 2018, after five years of obsessive effort, Strachan managed to launch Lawrence’s likeness into low orbit using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The project is just one expression of the artist’s dedication to honoring the unseen and the unsung. His life’s work has been a journey into the hidden machinery that determines who and what warrant remembrance.

“It’s interesting to look at this body of work — or all the work that I’ve been doing for the past two decades — as a kind of protest,” Strachan said this summer, as he surveyed several dozen large, kaleidoscopic paintings leaning against the walls of his studio, a spacious ground-floor loft on the northern border of Chelsea, in New York. To focus on subjects outside the mainstream canon, “you have to be really committed to it to keep them moving. Otherwise, they usually get swept under the rug.” Strachan’s passion for unearthing obscure trailblazers complements his own audacious feats of exploration. The artist has embarked on four separate Arctic expeditions (he is the first Bahamian to visit the North Pole) and trained as a Russian cosmonaut at a military facility in Moscow — all before turning 40 and without the support of a commercial gallery or an Amex black card.  Read more >>