“The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art” examines mankind’s relationship to birds and the natural world through the work of 12 major contemporary American artists. The artists featured in the exhibition are: David Beck, Rachel Berwick, Lorna Bieber, Barbara Bosworth, Joann Brennan, Petah Coyne, Walton Ford, Laurel Roth Hope, Paula McCartney, James Prosek, Fred Tomaselli and Tom Uttech. The exhibition will be on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 31 through Feb. 22, 2015, and is organized by Joanna Marsh, The James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art.

“The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the ideal venue for this exhibition, both as a museum committed to exhibiting living artists and as part of the Smithsonian Institution, where science, art and history intersect,” said Betsy Broun, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The presentation of “The Singing and the Silence” coincides with two significant environmental anniversaries-the extinction of the passenger pigeon in 1914 and the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Inspired by the confluence of these events, the exhibition explores how artists working today use avian imagery as a way to understand contemporary culture and the widespread desire to meaningfully connect with the natural world.

“At its core, this exhibition is less about birds, and more about what birds tell us about ourselves and our connection to our planet,” said Marsh. “Together the works create a collective portrait of our own species as informed by our relationship with birds.”

The nearly 50 artworks on display examine mankind’s evolving relationship with the natural world and the ways in which birds symbolize human impulses to both conquer and conserve nature. The exhibition’s title is drawn from the poem “The Bird at Dawn” by Harold Monro.

A number of artists will travel to the museum to install their artworks personally, including Berwick, Coyne and Prosek. Behind-the-scenes views of these installations will be available on the museum’s website. Berwick’s cast crystal sculpture, “Untitled (Blue),” will be on public display for the first time as part of the exhibition, as will a temporary, site-specific mural created by Prosek for the entrance of the exhibition space.

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