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cover to exhibition catalogue for Elizabeth Turk, "Tipping Point—Echoes of Extinction", showing wooden discs stacked on each other

Catalogue to gallery exhibition of the same name, October 1-November 20, 2020.

As we celebrate 20 years representing Elizabeth Turk, Hirschl & Adler Modern is proud to present an exciting new project, Tipping Point– Echoes of Extinction, the latest body of work by the internationally-recognized sculptor. While furthering her exploration into the overlap of art and nature, Turk confronts a globally important issue: Extinction. Tipping Point employs sculpture, sound, and technology to ask: what role can humans play in the preservation of a species, including our own? Are we at a tipping point?

Turk highlights this relevant environmental concern with her Sound Columns – elegant visualizations of the lost voices of birds and sea mammals. These twenty-seven sculptures, fabricated in wood, aluminum, 3-D printed ABS filament, and bronze, take their form directly from the calls of various animals that are, today, extinct or endangered. The recordings, many sourced from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, are visually represented by lines of varying lengths, usually read from left to right with louder sounds indicated by longer lines. Turk has reoriented the sonograms vertically and translated this data into three dimensions, resulting in compositionally-unique, Modernist-looking sculptures. That the bird and sea mammal calls selected by the artist are of endangered or extinct animals underscores the harsh reality that these recordings are some of the few remaining traces we have left of these creatures.

Technology is an important component to this project, in both form and concept. Diverging from her celebrated, hand-carved marble sculpture, Turk employs advancements in fabrication technology, including CNC machinery, to work with the variety of materials on view. Additionally, the installation at Hirschl & Adler Modern includes a scannable QR code for each sculpture through which the viewer can access a recording of that animal’s call. With each sculpture, Turk joins the aural and the visual, giving form to what is, or could soon be, lost.

Turk, in her own words, eloquently summarizes this project: Tipping Point was conceived in reverence to the astounding lives the species which envelop humans have lived and the mysterious ways they have contributed to our well-being. The shadows of their memory, whether a shape or a sound, have inspired this project. These structures are made for interaction to prompt thought and spark conversation by begging the question, “Are we creating a silence?”

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