The Artist Whose Medium Is Science

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RIGHT NOW, SEVERAL hundred miles overhead, a golden urn with the face of a forgotten man is circling Earth, a passenger on a black satellite. “Enoch,” one of Tavares Strachan’s most ambitious works of art, is a tribute to Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African-American astronaut, who died in a supersonic jet crash in 1967 before he could reach space. In 2018, after five years of obsessive effort, Strachan managed to launch Lawrence’s likeness into low orbit using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The project is just one expression of the artist’s dedication to honoring the unseen and the unsung. His life’s work has been a journey into the hidden machinery that determines who and what warrant remembrance.“It’s interesting to look at this body of work — or all the work that I’ve been doing for the past two decades — as a kind of protest,” Strachan said this summer, as he surveyed several dozen large, kaleidoscopic paintings leaning against the walls of his studio, a spacious ground-floor loft on the northern border of Chelsea, in New York. To focus on subjects outside the mainstream canon, “you have to be really committed to it to keep them …

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