ECO-ART Historical Perspective by
Nature has always been a source of inspiration for artists. The magical relationship between nature and human beings as expressed in rural art has produced amazing works of art throughout the world. Oriental cultures have been especially sensitive to natural landscapes as revealed in painted silk screens, ancient manuscripts, the miniaturization of nature in the form of Bonsai technique, landscape design and a sense of permanent contemplation of nature. During the period of Classical Antiquity human beings interacted with holy spirits and nature, thus creating myths, cults and works of art. This feeling of nature permeated European art from the Renaissance to the Neoclassical period, and in the Nineteenth Century it was exarberated by the Romantic Movement. During this period nature was idealized. Writers and poets related it to love, the forces from beyond, and divine power.
Later on, the Impressionist Movement gave nature the role of a protagonist within a new concept, and a direct recognition of light, color and shape of rural and natural life forms.
In the American continent, where nature reigns supreme in its savage and majestic form, prehispanic cultures developed rituals and art forms linked to it, creating cosmologies in which nature is bestowed great importance. The chroniclers of the Indies expressed their astonishment as they came face to face with the American landscape; and a few of them, such as Oviedo, attempted to describe the native flora.
Since the Nineteenth Century, through the influence of the Romantic Movement, we see evidence of this enhanced sensitivity to nature by artists, especially in the works of the traveling painters: the Baron Von Humboldt documented his journey in Central America; Jose Maria Velasco painted the Valley of Mexico and its volcanoes; Johan Moritz Rugendas reflected the Argentinean Pampas, while Jean Baptiste Debret described the beaches and the scenery of Rio de Janeiro.
Nineteenth Century artists began to see their land, their nature; they began to describe their marvelous continent. This mystique of natural landscapes is best expressed by painters of the Hudson River in the United States. This school is a precursor of the idyllic concept, but it too reveals our American natural scenery: Thomas Cole, Frederick Edwin Church, Albert Bierstadt and other artists created their works by observing their surroundings in direct communion with nature. Some of them traveled in South America, painting the Magdalena River and the tropical forests. This is the first and poetic focus on this enormous and beautiful continent.
In the Twentieth Century, nature is redefined and artists took a more critical position. Mexican mural painters pointed the finger at the savagery of capitalism. The Pop-Art Movement exalted the criticism of consumerism and explored new, non-traditional materials in the conception of their works of art.
From the sixties on, nature as the subject emerged with greater intensity, and problems caused by environmental pollution gave way to a new approach in art. A call for awareness of existing dangers was voiced, devoid of an idealized concept of nature, but instead, committed to depicting the threat of destruction of the natural environment.
Institutions for environmental protection were established: Clear Air Act in 1970; The Environmental Defense Fund in 1969; and Green Peace in 1970, among others. These institutions focused on environmental protection and they called for a conservationist consciousness and care of the environment. At this time, artists were searching for paths that would lead to harmony between human beings and nature; they were looking for concordance, not devastation; for control, not pollution. It is in this climate that the terms ecology, environment, and environmental balance, emerge. In 1967 PULSA was created. This is a group of interdisciplinary artists and professionals involved in environmental research and the impact of pollution.
In the seventies, Robert Smithson creates his work "Spiral Jetty" in Salt Lake City, Utah. Michael Singer does research on and creates bamboo sculptures, while Christo and Jeanne-Claude work with gigantic draping of islands and mountains.
In Latin America, performances were staged with allusions to problems plaguing nature. The argentinean artist,Nicolas Garcia Uriburu, at the Venice Biennale, tinted the canals with colors to alert to ocean pollution. In Mexico City, a sculpture circuit in harmony with the natural landscape was created for the 1968 Olympic Games. In Miami, the cuban painter Tomas Sanchez is one of the most critical contemporary voices on the subject.
Ecological Art is a worldwide art movement, the philosophy of which is based on ecological awareness, the harmonic coexistance of human beings and nature. It is a revitalizing movement in terms of materials used in works of art, which are in many cases, recycled and natural at the same time. Most of them emphasize the beauty of nature as a masterpiece, but one which is as fragile and vulnerable as our own life.
It is in this framework of ecological sensitivityand
Adriana Bianco INTERVIEWS Nohra Corredor (1997)
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