Tavares Strachan is a contemporary conceptual artist whose practice activates the intersections of art, science, and politics, offering uniquely synthesized points of view on the cultural dynamics of scientific knowledge. Aeronautics, astronomy, deep-sea exploration, and extreme climatology are but some of the thematic arenas out of which Strachan creates monumental allegories that tell of cultural displacement, human aspiration, and mortal limitation. His text-based neon sculptures are an anthem for our political and cultural moment, and his lexicon an effort to mobilize community and societal change. Strachan’s ambitious, open-ended practice has included collaborations with numerous organizations and institutions across the disciplines.
One of Strachan’s most iconic projects, The Distance Between What We Have and What We Want (2006), began with a journey to the Alaskan Arctic to excavate a 4.5-ton block of ice, which was then transported via FedEx to his native Bahamas and displayed in a solar-powered freezer in the courtyard of his childhood elementary school. Both physically arresting and metaphorically resonant, the piece referenced the fragility of Earth’s homeostatic systems and the strange poetry of cultural and physical displacement, as well as the little-known contributions of Matthew Henson—an under-recognized American explorer and the co-discoverer of the North Pole.
In 2004, Strachan initiated an ambitious four-year multimedia body of work entitled Orthostatic Tolerance—the title referring to the physiological stress that cosmonauts endure while exiting and re-entering Earth from outer space. Exhibited in phases between 2008 and 2011, the Orthostatic Tolerance project incorporated photography, video, drawing, sculpture and installation, documenting Strachan’s experience in cosmonaut training at the Yuri Gagarin Training Center in Star City, Russia and his experiments in space travel conducted in Nassau under the Bahamas Air and Space Exploration Center (BASEC)—the artist’s answer to NASA for the Bahamas.
On December 3, 2018, Strachan launched his project ENOCH into space. Created in collaboration with LACMA Art + Technology Lab, ENOCH is centered around the development and launch of a 3U satellite that brings to light the forgotten story of Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African American astronaut selected for any national space program. The satellite launched via Spaceflight’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The sculpture will continue to circle the Earth for seven years in a sun-synchronous orbit.
Strachan was born in 1979 in Nassau, Bahamas, and currently lives and works between New York City and Nassau. He received a BFA in Glass from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003 and an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University in 2006.
Strachan’s work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions including You Belong Here, Prospect 3. Biennial, New Orleans; The Immeasurable Daydream, Biennale de Lyon, Lyon; Polar Eclipse, The Bahamas National Pavilion 55th Venice Biennale, Venice; Seen/Unseen, Undisclosed Exhibition, New York; Orthostatic Tolerance: It Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea if I Never Went Home Again, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge; among others. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including 2019-20 Artist in Residence at the Getty Research Institute, 2018 Frontier Art Prize, and the Allen Institute’s inaugural artist-in-residence in 2018, 2014 LACMA Art + Technology Lab Artist Grant, 2008 Tiffany Foundation Grant, 2007 Grand Arts Residency Fellowship, and 2006 Alice B. Kimball Fellowship.