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Born UK 1965, active Berlin


Gravure on Somerset White Satin paper

234 x 683 cm

Purchase, Contemporary Art Acquisitions Committee of American Friends of the Israel Museum, New York

© The artist
Accession number:


Arts/Contemporary Art

Quatemary is a constructed panorama based on historical 19th-century photographs of the ancient American landscape of Yellowstone, today a national park situated primarily in the state of Wyoming. The monumental photogravure depicts a cratered mountainside arrayed with spellbinding caves, geysers, and volcanoes. Tacita Dean further dramatized the geological image, adding such descriptive handwritten captions as “No 1. The Gate,” “Hell’s Breath,” “God’s hole,” or “post-apocalyptic Henry Moore.” Some of the artist’s mysterious phrases - reminiscent of annotations to a film script - are indecipherable, seemingly battered by the ravages of time and weather.
The title of Dean’s work (a variation on the geological term ”quaternary”) refers to a prehistoric era in a mystical natural andscape. Eventually this setting was inhabited by American Indians whose myths and legends took shape there. The ability of powerful landscapes to inspire narratives can also be most tangibly experienced here in Israel. Rock and desert formations are ascribed by biblical tradition to stories like the one in which Lot’s wife, upon looking back at the unfolding cataclysm in Sodom, turned into a pillar of salt. This salt column on the shore of the Dead Sea still stands today, as does the erratically shaped rock in the Midian landscape that resembles a burning bush.


New in the Collection: Contemporary Art, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Spertus Gallery, 20/10/2015 - 01/05/2016