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Alexis Rockman

Host and Vector



Alexis Rockman (1962-)


Host and Vector




Oil on plywood


Overall: 84 1/16 × 72 in. (213.5 × 182.9 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of the Nye Family

Accession number


Object Label

Host and Vector, like most of Alexis Rockman’s work, might be equally at home in a museum of natural history or a museum of art. This large painting, based on a 1994 trip to Guyana, proposes an intimate, up-close position for the viewer, as if one is navigating through the almost impenetrable thicket of flora and fauna toward the misty background. In the spirit of field observation, Rockman painted only what he saw in the dense South American jungle, inventing nothing. Nonetheless, Rockman’s “naturalism” is so precise that it often defamiliarizes his botanical, biological, and zoological subjects, rendering them strange, even otherworldly; note the preternatural verdant sheen of the leaves in Host and Vector, for example, or the moody, cinematic quality of the fog. “My art practice is to turn science inside out and roll around in it and make it almost indistinguishable from fiction,” he explains. “There is a paradox there that I’m eternally interested in.” If some of the sources evoked by Rockman’s work are traditional—historical landscape and genre painting, resin dioramas, naturalist illustrations—his meticulous representations and saturated colors also conjure the hyperreal spectacle of science fiction films, portending a world on the brink of possible destruction.