Alexis Rockman

American, b. 1962

Adelies, 2008
Oil on wood
68 x 80 in. (172.72 x 203.2 cm)
Private Collection

In Adelies, Alexis Rockman suggests the  potentially precarious status of these unique creatures if climate change is not addressed and mitigated.  Dependent on ice as a feeding platform, the penguins appear to drift in isolation. This painting calls to mind the dramatic cleaving of the continent’s massive ice shelves from the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

Rockman traveled to the Southern Continent on board a Lindblad Expedition Cruise ship and explored the region in kayaks and zodiacs. During his 12 days on the ice, he made watercolor sketches of the blue-green Antarctic environment that glowed “luminous like jewelry.” This quality of light and color informs Adelies, which also references Morris Louis (American, 1912–1962), the color-field painter whose abstract pours and veils evoke sensations of transcendence.

Rockman nurtures his passion for art and the natural sciences by frequent visits to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he studied the art of Frederic Edwin Church. Although engaged in field observations and drawings, Rockman does not consider his work “scientific.” Instead, he aims to make “art about the history of science.”