• Barnaby Furnas
    The Fruit Eaters, 2013
    Acrylic on linen
    88 x 96 inches
    Courtesy of the Artist and Victoria Miro, London
    © Barnaby Furnas. Photography: Stephen White

  • Fred Tomaselli
    Study for Expulsion, 2000
    Leaves, pills, acrylic, photocollage, and resin on wood panel
    24 x 30 in.
    © The Artist / Courtesy of James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai

  • Mary Temple
    Preparatory drawing for North Wall, South Light, Garden, from the series Light Installations 2002-Present, 2014
    Acrylic on existing architecture
    12 1/2 x 13 ½ ft.
    Courtesy of the Artist and Mixed Greens, New York

  • Rona Pondick
    Dwarfed Blue Pine, 2009-10
    Painted bronze
    21 x 42 x 23 inches
    Courtesy of Sonnabend Gallery, New York, and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg

  • Naomi Reis
    Vertical Garden (Weeds), 2007
    Acrylic and ink mixed-media collage on mylar
    53 x 35 inches
    Collection of Katarina Maxianova and Aaron Hagedorn

  • Pipilotti Rist
    Sparking of the Domesticated Synapses (Funkenbildung der domestizierten Synapsen), 2010
    1 integrated projector and media player, diverse objects, wooden shelf or table, and fresh flowers Edition of 5 with 1 artist’s proof
    Video duration: 5'34 minute loop
    35 2/8 X 31 1/2 X 11 3/4 inches
    Courtesy of the Artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and Hauser & Wirth

  • Sean Capone
    1000 Paths (To The Divine), 2014
    Looping dual-HD video projection with audio
    Courtesy of the Artist

  • Lina Puerta
    Untitled 10 from the Botánico Series (detail), 2011
    Polyurethane foam, wood, resin, paint, fabric, fiberfill, rhinestones, trims, beads, feathers, moss, and artificial plants
    70 x 28 x 24 inches
    Courtesy of the Artist

  • Dana Sherwood
    Banquets in the Dark Wildness, 2014
    Video monitors, steel, aluminum, glass, plaster, clay, resin, foam, papier-mâché, and varnish
    28 x 42 x 70 in.
    Courtesy of the Artist

  • Alexis Rockman
    Gowanus, 2013
    Oil on wood
    72 x 90 in.
    © Alexis Rockman
    Courtesy of Sperone Westwater, New York

Back to Eden

Contemporary Artists Wander the Garden

June 27–September 28, 2014

Back to Eden: Contemporary Artists Wander the Garden looks at the biblical story of the Garden of Eden, and how it has directly and indirectly inspired contemporary artists. In particular, the exhibition considers the Garden of Eden as a lens through which to view the relationship between humans and the natural world.

Artists in the Western world have used elements of the Garden of Eden story for centuries as potent symbols: the Creation of plants and animals, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life, the Forbidden Fruit, the Serpent, the Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Eden. In this exhibition, contemporary artists continue to mine this rich resource for metaphors that are both personal and universal. Barnaby Furnas’s The Fruit Eaters takes the classic subject of Adam and Eve biting the apple, and renders it fresh and vital, with paint that seems to still be dripping, and a violent and malevolent serpent circling menacingly. Jim Dine’s Garden of Eden gate evokes happy childhood memories of his family’s tool store. Mark Dion, in a work created especially for this exhibition, presents a fantasy diorama of the serpent, imagining how he looked with legs, before he was cursed by God to crawl on his belly.

The garden has for centuries represented a perfect natural paradise that we have now lost. Several of the artists in the exhibition consider the ways in which humans have tried to recreate a “perfect garden.” Naomi Reis’s drawings of imaginary Modernist buildings are overlaid with lush plants and fountains that, like the Gardens of Babylon or the botanical gardens of Victorian times, show the attempt to recreate an exotic paradise within a completely foreign environment. In Lina Puerta’s installations, nature becomes the intruder, reinserting itself into the urban environment, intertwined with manmade sequins and buttons: a garden that is a mix of the natural and the manmade. Mary Temple's garden appears as a shadow cast on a gallery wall, caused by light streaming through an imaginary window.

Theologians continue to debate about the environmental implications of the story of Genesis: does the environment fall under the dominion of humans, and have value primarily through its use by them? Or was the environment given to humans for their stewardship, and were they intended to nurture it? Marina Zurkow looks at the often-disastrous effects of the dominion/stewardship attitudes towards nature; through her animation of a dystopian Times Square reclaimed by nature. Alexis Rockman's Gowanus similarly shows the evil results of manmade sewage on the natural environment in Brooklyn. These two artists bring the story of the Garden of Eden to MOBIA's home in New York City, reminding us that we have the opportunity to both achieve and lose Paradise all over again, right where we are.

Click here to view related Public Programs

Click here for information about booking a group visit

Click here for information about Summer Camp Workshops


Back to Eden is made possible by the generous support of Case Systems, the Sister Fund, and the Bowden Family Fund. Support for educational programs is provided, in part, by TD Charitable Foundation. Additional support provided by the Atrium Café by Gabriel’s.

Major support for MOBIA's exhibitions and programs is provided by American Bible Society and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.