This exhibition showcases the portfolio A Swarm, A Flock, A Host: A Compendium of Creatures, 12 color aquatints by noted artist Darren Waterston and text plates featuring a poem by award-winning writer Mark Doty. The portfolio, a contemporary version of a medieval bestiary, was commissioned by the Achenbach Graphic Arts Council, in support of the art acquisitions program of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s prints and drawings department.
The bestiary is a literary and illustrative form in which a number of known animal species, as well as mythological creatures, are catalogued encyclopedically. As a genre, the medieval bestiary constituted a natural history of creation that frequently included moralizing allegories, with the animal kingdom providing apt symbols for human behavior.
In this modern bestiary Waterston depicts silhouetted animal and plant forms in emotionally charged configurations meant to be as menacing as they are playful. “As Mark’s extraordinary poetry took form,” Waterston has said, “I painted in response, inspired by his words though not directly illustrating them.”