Carlos Amorales’ Black Cloud Exhibition at Phoenix Art Museum

An exhibit titled ‘Black Cloud’ is a traveling solo exhibition that was inspired by the migration of butterflies from Canada to Mexico. A swarm of 25,000 black paper butterflies and moths are delicately placed on the walls and ceiling. There are 30 different species of moths and butterflies represented.  

People stop to stare at the Black Cloud exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, AZ Nov. 7, 2018.

The exhibition opened at the Phoenix Art Museum on Nov. 4, 2017 and was to remain for just a year but it has since been extended until Sept. 8, 2019. 

“It was to be gone in October of this year,” says Ruben Hernandez, a gallery attendant at the Phoenix Art Museum. 

Amorales conceived the idea for the artwork when he was saying goodbye to his grandmother. The personal nature of the origin of the piece brings something of a immense spiritual nature to the space it encompasses. 

“It is a thing of beauty,” says Hernandez. 

Walking through the exhibit the winged figures instill feelings of wonder and awe. The insects are all-encompassing, enveloping and over-taking. It is both beautiful and comforting yet very surreal and uncomfortable. A dark wave of nature overtakes the corridor of the museum and the corridors of the mind. 

The exhibit was first installed in New York at the Yvon Lambert Gallery. It then moved to Murcia, Spain and since each butterfly and moth has flown around the world to be seen in many exhibits. 

Carlos Amorales was born in 1970 in Mexico City. He is a multidisciplinary artist who studied at Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and has participated in several residences in France and Washington, D.C. One of his most famous works has been an ongoing archive since 1998– “Liquid Archive”— a collection of vector graphics of many animals, trees and figures to be used in various visual compositions. 

“It’s very immersive, reminds me of being in a thick forest,” says Michael Howel, a 32-year-old visiting the exhibit. 

Paper moths and butterflies cling to every surface in the Black Cloud exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, AZ Nov. 7, 2018.

Looking closely each insect appears delicate. Each wing cut with just the right touch. Taking a step back and taking it all in at once it feels disturbing; it is the perfect nightmare for those with insectophobia.

“I don’t know how to express feelings in words actually. At first it’s a bit overwhelming. No matter how much you take a picture of any of this, there just is not a picture that expresses the way you feel when you’re actually here,” says Hernandez.

General admission is $23, $18 for students with identification, $20 for seniors and $14 for children. Museum members, military and children under five are admitted for free.

The exhibition is open to the public during voluntary-donation hours from 3 p.m. – 9 p.m. every Wednesday and from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. on the First Friday of every month. It is also available from noon – 5 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month.

The Phoenix Art Museum is located at 1625 N. Central Ave Phoenix, AZ 85004. Regular hours at the Phoenix Art Museum hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon -5 p.m. on Sunday. 

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