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Rosamond Purcell: Two Rooms
October 7 – December 14, 2003
Tisch Gallery

Following Purcell’s years of success as a photographer and author, this exhibition organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art is the first highlighting the artist’s sculptural installation work.

Two Rooms features a full-size recreation of 17th Century naturalist Olaus Worm’s Wunderkammer, set in relation to Purcell’s long-time Somerville, MA studio and to her collections that have been carefully reassembled in the Gallery. With over 400 objects ranging from elements of natural history to the proverbial debris of junkyards, the assemblage invites viewers to experience and question two systems of classification – the order of science and the objective aesthetic choices of the artist. It initiates a dialogue between science and art and further confronts the intersections of issues such as natural history, collecting, and museology and of the conversation between natural decay versus obsolescence.

Working from a detailed engraving published in 1655, Purcell recreates Olaus Worm’s Wunderkammer complete with a narwhal tooth, tortoise shells, animal horns and exotic skins, and other natural elements like the branch of a tree growing around the jaw of a horse. The other room takes the viewer on a visit to Purcell’s studio overtaken with objects found throughout twenty years of her trips to a junkyard in Owls Head, Maine. Piles of tattered books, discarded automobile parts, old clocks, and obsolete machinery are just some of the items incorporated. Overall, it is the divergence of items between each room that give a large context to the sculptural installation.

In addition to the Two Rooms installation curated by Lisa Melandri, Deputy Director of the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the exhibition at the Tufts University Gallery also features a collection of Purcell’s photographic works from the fall 2003 release of her book, Owls Head.

This exhibition has been organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art and curator Lisa Melandri. 

Image: Rosamond Purcell
Two Rooms, Partial View
Copyright 2003 Rosamond W Purcell