On View Image
painting of wildlife and industry above and below water
Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle
October 11, 2019 - January 5, 2020

This Fall, WAM is proud to present the exhibition, Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle. Organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM), the exhibition features an ambitious suite of paintings and works on paper by New York-based artist Alexis Rockman. In a state bound by Lake Superior and part of a region contiguous to Lake Michigan, Minnesotans are keenly aware of the importance, robustness, and fragility of these shining, open waters.

Intrigued by and concerned about this essential water system, The Great Lakes Cycle developed out of Rockman’s rigorous research, travel, and interaction with people in the region—especially scientists who specialize in the lakes and their ecosystems. Rockman has translated this information from first-hand experiences, to biological facts, to digital sketches, and finally, to the works we’ll display. The culmination of this intensive research project—the exhibition—is divided into three sections: field drawings, large-scale watercolors, and monumental, mural-sized paintings.

The Great Lakes Cycle explores the past, present, and future of the Great Lakes. While celebrating the natural majesty and global importance of the region, Rockman explores how the lakes are threatened by human forces including climate change, pollution, invasive species, mass agriculture, and urban sprawl. Some of the steps taken in recent decades to protect these ecosystems and counteract environmental damages have produced positive results, yet more attention is needed. It is our goal that Rockman’s exhibition will create wider awareness of these issues and inspire everyone to play a role in protecting our environment and preserving these precious resources for future generations.


The Great Lakes Cycle Preview Party | Friday, October 11 | 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Be the first to view Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle, see and touch specimens from the Bell Museum, and visit the Water Bar to taste and learn about water from the Twin Cities’ region and Dakota peoples’ relationship to it.

Artist Talk with Alexis Rockman | Wednesday, November 6 | 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Join Rockman as he discusses his multi-faceted project. Register here >>

The Great Lakes Cycle Community Day | Saturday, November 9 | 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

An afternoon full of water-themed activities: Build a diorama alongside Bell Museum guides, write to your legislators, adopt a drain, and learn about environmental organizing. All ages welcome! Register here >>

Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle is organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, with support generously provided by the Wege Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Frey Foundation, and LaFontsee Galleries and Framing. Top image: Alexis Rockman, Cascade, 2015, oil and alkyd on wood panel. Commissioned by Grand Rapids Art Museum with funds provided by Peter Wege, Jim and Mary Nelson, John and Muriel Halick, Mary B. Loupee, Karl and Patricia Betz, and general accessions funds.