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Ashes and Snow Exhibit at the Nomadic Museum in Santa Monica

Gregory Colbert's Vision of the Wild World

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Nomadic Museum Exhibit

Ashes and Snow at the Nomadic Museum in Santa Monica

Courtesy of Irwin Miller, Gensler
Mystical visions of child and cheetah in the dessert. Tender moments between woman and orangutan. Man and elephant in a water ballet. In still frames and moving pictures, Gregory Colbert’s monumental vision of the intimate interactions among wild animals and blissfully serene humans is nothing short of breathtaking. His ethereal images capture a timeless dance. Over 14 years in a dozen countries, Colbert sought out his wild subjects in their native environments and patiently composed his visual symphonies. The fruit of this intensive labor is the Ashes and Snow exhibit, first shown at the Arsenale in Venice, Italy in 2002.

Featuring over 100 photos and three film segments, Ashes and Snow is now at the Nomadic Museum in Santa Monica through May 14. The Nomadic Museum, created for Colbert by Japanese architect, Shigeru Ban, was first installed in New York City on the Hudson River Park’s Pier 54. The completely reusable and recyclable structure was dismantled after the New York exhibit and a new incarnation was assembled in Southern California next to the Santa Monica Pier.
Man with Whale

Gregory Colberts's Ashes and Snow Exhibit at the Nomadic Museum in Santa Monica

Courtesy of and © Gregory Colbert, Ashes and Snow
Rented shipping containers create the walls of the three-wing structure, with 35-foot paper tubes supporting the roof of aluminum trusses and tensile fabric. The building towers 56 feet at its highest point. The vaulted space with its long colonnade feels more cathedral than gallery. A wooden walkway leads through a world of dream-like canvases suspended over beds of river rocks.

The unframed photo panels in sepia and umber are printed on handmade Japanese paper. The warm tones are reflected in the drapes made of a million Sri Lankan pressed-paper tea bags. At the end of the hall, a short film plays on a movie screen, repeating in motion some of the themes just visited along the gallery.

The cavernous central hall has a full-size movie screen, where a one hour film shows, among many things, the artist himself in a free-diving water ballet with elephants and whales. Stackable paper-tube stools allow visitors to get semi-comfortable to enjoy the magic.
Another short film plays on a smaller screen in the final wing. Here an enamored orangutan, out canoeing with his lady love, tastes the water droplets up and down his companion’s arm before taking her gently by the hand and drawing her to the other end of the boat, while she remains, eyes closed, in the same suspended dream state as Colbert’s other human characters.

This third wing mirrors the first in structure and is lined with more of the artist’s interpretations of absolute trust between homo sapiens and the wild animals that choose to nurture them.


Woman with Eagle

Ashes and Snow photo exhibit by Gregory Colbert

Courtesy of and © Gregory Colbert
Gregory Colbert’s visual bestiary is on exhibit at the Nomadic Museum at the Santa Monica pier until May 14, 2006. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 seniors; $10 students with ID; Free for children under six. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the web at www.ticketweb.com or by calling 1 (866) 468-7619. Ashes and Snow is open Tue –Thu 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Fri 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Sat 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Sun 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Limited parking is available at the Nomadic Museum and on the Pier. Rates here and at nearby lots range from $5 to $8 for the day. A free shuttle is provided from the South Beach Lot at 2030 Barnard Way, 3/4 of a mile south of the Pier off of Ocean Avenue every weekend during the museum's operating hours.

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