New World Atlas of Weeds and Rags, Ryan Pierce’s second solo exhibition with Elizabeth Leach Gallery, features paintings depicting the resilience of the natural world. The works are inspired by the role of weeds and the impact of humans on an Earth reeling from climate change, mass extinction, and environmental collapse. The images are a meditation on our perception of weeds as unwanted, harmful invaders that bring imbalance to an ecosystem, rather than a symptom of existing trauma. Pierce’s celebration of weeds questions conventional nativist conceptions of landscape, wondering instead at the possible role of weeds as a restorative function of a wounded planet.
For this series, the artist has borrowed the visual tropes of botanical illustration, recalling a time when painting and drawing were trusted modes of seeking, recording, and conveying new knowledge. The works are populated with moths, snakes, and locusts — symbols of the deplored but ecologically crucial components of nature. Alongside the paintings are slender pedestals holding bowls of “Roundup Ready” weed seed. Viewers are invited to take the seeds, which are from common and robust Pacific Northwest native plants that have been genetically selected to resist chemical pesticides: a provocation to destabilize and hasten the demise of industrial agriculture.
Pierce received a MFA in Painting from California College of the Arts in 2007 and a BFA in Drawing from Oregon College of Art & Craft in 2003. His work has been exhibited internationally, including the CUE Foundation (New York, NY), Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (Peeskill, NY), Roberts and Tilton Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), Lisa Dent Gallery (San Francisco, CA), and most recently at Babel Gallery in Trondheim, Norway. He has received recognition from Art in America, Art Papers, Art Week, and the Oregonian and grants from The Joan Mitchell Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council. He is the recipient of a 2012 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission. Pierce is the co-founder of Signal Fire, an organization that provides wilderness residencies and retreats to artists from all disciplines.