Walton Ford (b. 1960)
Walton Ford (b. 1960)

Funk Island

Walton Ford (b. 1960)
Funk Island
titled 'Funk Island' (upper left); signed with the artist's initials 'W.F.' (lower right)
watercolor, gouache, graphite and ink on paper
60 ¼ x 119 ½ in. (153 x 303.5 cm.)
Executed in 1998.
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
E. Gomez, "Past is Present," Art & Antiques, December 1998, pp. 64 and 65 (illustrated).
S. Katz and D. Kazanjian, Walton Ford: Tigers of Wrath, Horses of Instruction, New York, 2002, pp. 13 and 71 (illustrated).
C. Tomkins, "Man and Beast," The New Yorker, vol. 84, 26 January 2009, p. 55.
B. Buford, Walton Ford: Pancha Tantra, Cologne, 2015, pp. 81-83 (illustrated).
New York, Paul Kasmin Gallery, Walton Ford, 1998.
New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Tigers of Wrath: Watercolors by Walton Ford, November 2006-January 2007.


“My work reacts to the history of natural history and the history of people's interactions with animals and other cultures and things like that. And our way of remembering natural history events and creatures that are now extinct.” – Walton Ford

By reviving the Audubon-style illustrations that invoke the pioneering expeditions of Charles Darwin, Walton Ford translates the careful observation and archival instinct of early naturalists into allegorical compositions that question humanity’s relationship with the animal kingdom. Executed in 1998, Funk Island is a classic example of his technique. Completed in painstaking detail with gouache, watercolor, graphite and ink on a single sheet of paper, Ford creates both imagery and atmosphere, all while maintaining the subtle social commentary that gives his art a sharp cerebral undertone.

In the monumental Funk Island, Ford depicts the flightless and penguin-like Great Auk birds violently and chaotically rushing towards a distant fire that ultimately signals their extinction while billowing clouds of coupled human figures rise from the flames. The Great Auk birds in the Arctic were slaughtered in massive quantities for their feathers, highly desired by early settlers for use in pillows and feather beds, which led to the birds’ total extinction by the end of the eighteenth century. Ford’s massive narrative painting is both a memorial to the extinct species, as well as a compelling critique on modern civilizations historical and continuous desecration of nature.

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