© Pawel Wojtasik

Pawel Wojtasik
The Aquarium

Even as it becomes more obviously the barometer of our ability to kill, we cling to the notion of the sea as the cradle of life. And we are nostalgically reconstructing the seaside - an improved, sanitized version - before we have even finished eradicating it. The zoo... may be an epitaph for our lost connection to animals, but the aquarium is a headstone - a great big, titanium-clad one - for our lost connection to water. (Excerpt from Ginger Strand's "Why Look at Fish?")

Alona Kagan Gallery is pleased to announce "The Aquarium", the debut solo exhibition by Polish-born artist Pawel Wojtasik. Pawel traveled to several locations, including the SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska, to document the problematic relationship that exists between humans and creatures forced by them to inhabit aquariums. After the tragic Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 in the Gulf of Alaska, the corporation spent thirty-nine million dollars, as part of its reparation effort, to build the Alaska SeaLife Center aquarium. The avowed purpose was research, rehabilitation of endangered species, and creation of a tourist destination. Today, some of the animals that vanished from the Alaskan ecosystem can be seen at the aquarium (e.g. Steller sea lions).

Pawel Wojtasik is a 2005 artist-in-residence of the LAB HD Outreach Program of the VOOM HD Networks. Wojtasik was given free access to state-of-the-art high definition video cameras and post-production facilities. He is one of the first artists to complete a work in LAB's Outreach Program, a Voom HD effort to bring new and innovative talent into commercial television. His installation, "The Aquarium," was produced in Alaska, Mystic, CT, and New York City, and contrasts the stunning vistas of the last frontier with the claustrophobia of captured sea mammals living in aquariums. Beyond its artistic merit, the work gives pause for reflection. Even as these artificial environments give safe haven to endangered animals and offer visitors a mesmerizing glimpse at the majesty of nature, Wojtasik's film looks beyond the spectacle to the reality of progressive destruction of these animals' very habitat.

Pawel Wojtasik received his MFA from Yale University in 1996. Recently, he was included in Exit Art's "The Studio Visit" as well as PS1 Contemporary Art Center's "Greater New York" show in 2005. Artists Residencies include Yaddo, Newman's Own, Inc. Endowed residency (Film), Saratoga Springs, NY and MacDowell, Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Special thanks to: Ginger Strand for writing the text for the video and for the original inspiration. Ginger is the author of the essay "Why Look at Fish?" originally published in Believer Magazine and excerpted in the January 2005 issue of Harper's Magazine. Tim Partridge for providing sound for the project, and Kyle DeCamp for her voice. Special thanks to Lili Chin, the Artist Outreach Coordinator at LAB HD, for her overall assistance with the project, as well as to Ali Hossanini. Thanks to The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska - especially to Jason Wettstein, media coordinator; Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, Mystic, CT; and The New York Aquarium. Thanks to Danka and Biff Cuthbert, David Hunt, and Christina Garidis for their continued support.

Exhibition: January 28 - March 4, 2006
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat 10am - 6pm

Alona Kagan Gallery
540 West 29th Street
USA-New York, NY 10001
Telephone +1 212 560-0670
Fax +1 212 560-0671
Email info@alonakagangallery.com