The Case of the Deviant Toad

Brandon Ballengée, The Case of the Deviant Toad.
Brandon Ballengée, The Case of the Deviant Toad.

Ballengee's artistic practice is immersed in the study and exchange of ideas around biodiversity and ecological change, and particulary focuses on global species decline.

New York artist, activist and ecological researcher, Brandon Ballengee brings his startling high-resolution scanner photographs, video and preserved specimens of deformed toads to the Royal Institution for his first London solo exhibition: The Case of the Deviant Toad. The show, exploring issues of biodiversity and ecological change, presented the outcome of the artist's 'Ecoactions' and study of UK amphibians commissioned by The Arts Catalyst and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Ballengée's artistic practice warns of high incidences of amphibian deformity in response to environmental degradation through his creation of aesthetically rich images and intriguing installations. 

In the exhibition, Ballengée presents variations of his sculptural series Styx which display cleared and stained specimens of deformed toads, each tiny animal presented in a precisely illuminated glass dish. In a gallery context, the specimens resemble translucent gems; enchanting, terrible and other-worldly. Framed watercolour prints of detailed vibrant specimens scans are reminiscent of x-rays, presenting large-scale images of fragile delicacy to invoke viewers' empathy.

The free exhibition at the Royal Institution, The Case of the Deviant Toad, coincides with the launch of a new publication of Malamp: The Occurrence of Deformities in Amphibians by Brandon Ballengée.

Publication

Malamp, The Occurrence of Deformities in Amphibians by Brandon Ballengée. A monograph, jointly published by The Arts Catalyst and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, brings together Ballengée’s UK research with findings from his global amphibian studies. It includes texts on his practice from arts, science and ecological perspectives, including a keynote essay by the renowned art critic and curator Lucy R Lippard. Additional contributors include Clare Lilley, Head Curator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Nicola Triscott, Director of The Arts Catalyst; Dr Stanley K Sessions, Professor of Biology, Hartwick College and Dr Kerry Kriger, Director of Save the Frogs. The publication is richly illustrated with extraordinary photographs, Ballengée’s drawings and other artworks.

Malamp: The Occurrence of Deformities in Amphibians, Brandon Ballengée. Edited by Nicola Triscott/Miranda Pope. 72 page, softback. £15.95. ISBN 978-0-9534546-7-9

Full picture credits

Scanner photographs of cleared and stained multi-limbed Pacific Tree frogs from Aptos, California in created in scientific collaboration with Dr Stanley K Sessions. MALAMP titles in collaboration with the poet KuyDelair; Unique Digital chromogenic prints on watercolor paper, 2001-07. Courtesy the artist, New York City and Nowhere Gallery, Milan.

Detail: Cleared and stained deformed Pacific treefrog from Styx sculpture installed at the Biotechnique Exhibition, Yerba Beuna Center for the Arts, San Francisco 2007. Malamp drawings, 1997-2000 of deformed Pacific Treefrogs from California. Polluted pond water, ash, and leftover coffee on artist-reconstituted paper. Photographs Foto22 courtesy of the artist and private collection, New York City.

Malamp drawings, 1997-2000 of deformed Pacific Treefrogs from California. Polluted pond water, ash, and leftover coffee on artist-reconstituted paper. Photographs Foto22 courtesy of the artist and private collection, New York City.

External links

The International Year of BiodiversityMalamp UK Youtube Video, Antennae Issue 10, Green Museum, Eco Art Space, Archibald Arts, Wave Hill, Malamp

Partner websites

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Royal Institute of Great Britain