Today @ AK

Jason Middlebrook

American, born 1966

Underlife, 2012–13

Steel, fiberglass, and tile
Approximately 360 inches (914.4 cm) wide
Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, Sherman S. Jewett Fund, by exchange, Gift of A. Conger Goodyear, by exchange and Gift of Dermotte and Company, by exchange, 2012

On View on the AK's Grounds

Jason Middlebrook is interested in the literal and metaphorical decay of landscapes and the point at which nature and culture clash. Often using recycled or salvaged materials—which, to him, “have a history and still have a future”—he creates sculptural installations that re-render the natural environment. Throughout his work, Middlebrook questions the tense relationships humans have with nature and art. Although his work is a critique of these relationships, it is also a commentary on the beauty that surrounds us, even if we cannot see it.

Underlife is a large-scale sculpture created in response to the existing Frederick Law Olmsted–designed landscape that surrounds the Gallery’s campus. Initially inspired by a tree that the artist uprooted on his property in downstate New York, it features a complex root system that has been dramatically lifted from the soil and propped on root ends. Having been removed from its natural, underground state and standing aboveground like a displaced, awe-inspiring underbelly of nature, the tree has its life force exposed. Amplified through scale and material, the root system becomes magical, shimmering with thousands of broken tiles. The tiles reflect the work’s surrounding environment—including trees, architecture, and viewers—through refracted light and color. Viewers are invited to walk beneath the work, which towers like a canopy above our heads. 

About the Artist

Jason Middlebrook was born in Jackson, Michigan, in 1966. He received a BFA from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1990 and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1994. Middlebrook participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in New York from 1994 to 1995, and his work has been exhibited in public institutions from coast to coast and abroad. He was the recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in 2010 and, in 2012, his MTA public commission, Brooklyn Seeds, was named one of the Best Public Artworks in the United States at the Americans for the Arts Conference. Middlebrook currently works in Hudson, New York.

Related News

Jason Middlebrook’s Captivating Wood Paintings (Architectural Digest) 

Jason Middlebrook on Rauschenberg’s Party, Tree Roots, and Hitting the New York Jackpot (ARTINFO

Project Updates

July 29, 2013: View Photos of Installation
February 11, 2013: View Photos of Tile Work
October 16, 2012: View Photos of Foam Work
August 28, 2012: View Video of Root Construction
August 28, 2012: View Photos of Site Planning