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Ann Preston

American, b. 1942


Cast zinc and wood
108 x 156 in. (274.32 x 396.24 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

In New Guinea, in the face of incredible diversity, Ann Preston recognized a disguised reprise of American culture and mores. The resultant urge to simplify her work was given imagery when she encountered illustrations of the designs hammered in relief on situla, copper vessels dating from 900 to 400 BC in Italy and the former Yugoslavia. Thus Expulsion was born: four walls of confrontation. A “birth” wall faces a “death” wall, a “bliss” wall opposes an “aggression” wall. Along with situla, the work incorporates imagery adapted from medieval Romanian church murals, ancient Greek statuary, and classical Greek friezes. The forms in the corners suggest ancient scrolls whose contents, here revealed, contain an illustrated guide to the human condition. The title of the work is a reference to the book of Genesis, and refers to awakening self-consciousness and innocence exposed to reality.

Each wall is populated with small linked figures, as if to symbolize the viewer’s inescapable connection with the life depicted, which seems not to be a happy one. The only figures who appear vaguely pleased are the men on the aggression wall moving into an impending confrontation. Even the few plants portrayed are abnormal, emerging from strange earthen pits to disperse spores. Expulsion, moving from birth to death and passing through states of bliss and aggression, encompasses the full range of human existence in a grand totemic installation.

George Wanlass

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