CUMULONEBULOUS
Thomas Hart Benton, Chris Dorland, Jacob Jackmauh, Tim Lyons, Elbert Joseph Perez, Nora Maité Nieves, Rachel Rosheger, and Viktor Timofeev
Presented with Tania Fer, Co-Curator

Jan 27 - Mar 23, 2024

    In Wichita, Kansas during the summer of 1946, a young boy named Bruce sat in a darkened theater waiting for a film to start. Before the feature began rolling, however, a very different image was projected on screen—a mushroom cloud exploding through the skies. What Bruce and many cinema-goers across the United States were watching was a news clip of footage from Operation Crossroads, the US Military’s atomic bomb tests which had just been detonated underwater at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. As he sat gazing at the macabre image of radioactive plumes rocketing from the seas, funneling toward the natural clouds, and swirling around the skies, he became mesmerized.

    Thirty years later, the boy, by then known as the enigmatic artist Bruce Conner, returned to the footage to produce the short film CROSSROADS, 1976. Culled from the filmstrips shot by 700 cameras at the test site (at the time, purportedly half of the world’s supply of film was on hand for the event), Conner’s more than half-hour elegiac compilation of footage embraces the atomic sublime in all its abject terror while also slowing the frames down to a hypnotically patient pace as the atomic explosion camouflages itself into the swirling clouds above the atoll, permanently and tangibly injecting into the existing atmosphere a loss of innocence born of human-wrought chaos in the sky.

    The exhibition Cumulonebulous conjures up a new cloud classification, one unlike the dozens of extant varieties identified in nephology, the branch of meteorology focused on clouds. The term splices the dense-looking structure of cumulus clouds, the puffy universal symbol for “cloud” whether in a toddler’s drawing or in an emoji proffered by big data, with the vaporous veil-like cloud cover of a nebulosus that rejects visibility. Departing from its closest relative the cumulonimbus, the familiar anvil-shaped storm cloud that can tower tens of thousands feet tall and produce hail, thunder, and lightning, the cumulonebulous carries the threat of immense ruin but eschews such recognizable and predictable forms, instead manifesting unexpectedly in supercell weather systems and global software breaches.
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