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Josh Keyes, "Reservation", 36"x48", acrylic on canvas, 2004.

Josh Keyes

Oakland, California-based artist, Josh Keyes uses his enigmatic graphic wit to describe a world of micro landscapes and dissected ecosystems. His visually striking paintings and drawings are filled with scientific-looking slices of animals on logs, villages on core samples and landscapes blossoming with road signs. Although often absurd and disjointed, they make perfect sense. They are neat and orderly and timeless and seem to reveal an idealized autopsy of nature's mysteries.

"Raft", acrylic on canvas, (2005), shows a rabbit on a block of earth, a tree and a little rectangular pond with fish, all floating against a white background as if plucked from a biologist's study plot. Like most of Josh Keyes' work, the parts and connections are suggested but deliberately sliced through - leaving gaps between branch and trunk, blue jay and branch, goldfish and air. Like a science display gone awry, our connection to context is routinely shattered.

According to the artist, "I use fragments and dissection as a way to signify the objectification of nature. I feel that my work is meaningful, and yet it does not have a specific literal meaning. If there is any direct message in my work it is to draw attention to the complex interaction and overlay of urban development and the natural environment."

Whether it's deforestation, urban sprawl, our reliance on fossil fuels or simply the ways we think about nature, Josh Keyes' work beautifully points to the need for new holistic approaches to these problems. Our segmented mindsets, he seems to suggest, are woefully inadequate for the frozen truncated animals and habitats we've envisioned for the Earth.



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