FIFTH SEASON MAGAZINEJuly 2014 ISSUE
EARTH ART 2014
Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario,CANADA
RENDITIONS: June 15 to June 30
EXHIBITION: July 1 to October 13, 2014
Ephemeral Art Curator, John K. Grande
Artists arrived on June 15, 2014 to create earth art installations at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario, Canada. In addition to enjoying the arresting large scale visual structures and interpretation, AUDIENCES were able to watch the artists create these ephemeral sculptures from and on the landscape. Renditions/Installations were completed on July 1st. and Exhibition and related arts education programs followed. Here are the selected artists and the curator's review of the exhibition:
Lance Betanger and Kitty Mykka
IN SEARCH OF THE EARTH!
EARTH ART 2014 Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Earth Art saw early manifestations in the 1960s with a show at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Artists were invited to create on site works with materials from nature.
Curator Willoughby Sharp worked with the artists Walter De Maria, Jan Dibbets, Hans Haacke, Michael Heizer, Richard Long, David Medalla, Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, and Gunther Uecker. Together these artists would create a new brand of installation art – Earth Art. Performance art played a major role in generating the conditions for Land Art (also called Earth Art) to come into being. Gallery installations focused on nature were also influential.
Allan Kaprow in 1961 produced Yard for the May-June show Environments, Situations, Spaces at Martha Jackson Gallery. In 1962, the same year Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published and Hans Haacke exhibited his controversial Water Box in the Rental Collection at New York's MOMA.
The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), one of the world's largest botanical gardens, with its five gardens and four nature sanctuaries on 2,700 acres of land, is home to more than 40,000 recorded plants. Earth Art 2014 uses the resources at Royal Botanical Gardens as a laboratory for the creation of art in nature. Just as Earth Art has evolved from its beginnings, and over the decades, it is less about concept, and more about the aesthetics of integration, and involves notions of sustainability, and site awareness.
Collaging and contrasting and building with nature's materials on site, the Royal Botanical Gardens Earth Art shows have brought a variety of progenitors and visionaries including Dennis Oppenheim, Neville Gabie, Yolanda Gutierrez, Ludwika Orgorzelec, Gregoire Ferland, Arnold Shives, Ted Rettig, Alan Sonfist, Emilie Brzezinski, Urs Twellmann, Arthur de Mowbry, Nils-Udo and Bob Verschueren to produce works.
Earth Art 2014 uses living elements in a topographic, textural and tactile space. Within a nature space landforms, plants, waterways, features of cultivation are part of the context. The artist adds a second layer to that context.
Sited next to the Tea Room in a pond, Danish artist Alfio Bonanno Six metre high Organic Refuge uses nature's inherent design to create a nesting structure for birds. Standing in water, Bonanno's nature tower assemblage is art with a function.
Indonesian artistFirman Djamil wove his O2 Chimney in the Arboretum out of branches and vines. As Djamil says, "In response to global warming and the changing atmosphere, I wanted to build a sculpture using small logs, branches and twigs to form a chimney-shaped structure. At its base there is a pile of rocks and sand to symbolize the forest and plankton. These produce oxygen (O2) and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) to assist in reducing global warming." Djamil O2 Chimney is a process oriented nature art work that presents an alternative model whereby instead of reducing O2 levels with fossil fuels, we increase O2 levels in the air with nature's participation. It is all about planning our future on this ecosystem, bringing nature's active presence into the nature-culture dialogue.
Toronto-based Charles Pachter Eco-Pop cut steel sculpture called MOOSEPLUNGE presents the iconic moose as it goes for a proverbial jump off a cliff. As Pachter comments, "In my quest to explore a symbol that is common to all Canadians, I discovered the moose. As a youngster who first pet a moose at age four at the Canadian National Exhibition, I was imprinted with this memory, and growing up in an era of Pop art, I came to utilize moose imagery in my art in many different variations. The results have been truly rewarding!"
New Zealand's Chris Booth whose magnificent stone sculpture assemblages and stone blankets develop an inter-cultural dialogue, for the Royal Botanical Gardens has created a ten metre by three metre long kinetic sympodial growth earth art piece. Recycled curving branches are woven together to form an off the ground structure that undulates its way up along the hill. It could be a container or a vessel, a nature container, itself part of nature. Using local reeds within the structure, Booth proposes an outdoor site-specific installation where fungi spores actively transform the sculpture, changing it rather. Slowly, the network of mycorrhizae and mycelia and fungal spores throw up fruiting bodies, invade the reed mass, and the sculptures devolves, returning to the earth. As the installation begins to fall onto the ground, a feather-like pattern that celebrates sympodial growth and the work of fungus - the greatest recycler on the planet remains. Less about art with a capital A and more cutting edge cross-disciplinary intervention, Chris Booth's an artist/innovator and visionary in his own right.
Montreal-based artist Laura Santini has developed a practice in working with elements from nature. At the McCord Museum in Montreal, Santini presented XTINCT, a polar bear made of discarded oyster shells from restaurants. (Both species are diminishing in numbers). At Earth Art 2014, Santini's Ramazza (Garden Broom), in her own words, "refers to an escape from the modern world of disposability, consumerism, waste, non-renewable products, and our lack of respect for nature. Ramazza (Garden Broom) is a magic broom of sorts, that offers the observer a path back to a time before wee lost our footing in the natural world and started trampling on the delicate balance essential to our survival. It is a reminder that the origins of many of the cheap dymthetic, stylized products we use today were once simple objects found in nature, used in their natural state, and returned to nature."
Toronto-based Richard Watts process involves layering natural rubber from tree sap (vulcanized latex) up to six times on found forms, whether rock faces, trees, wooden boats, old barns or farmhouse walls. Watts is as much performance artist as dialectical practitioner of ecological processes. He goes outside to select the elements he will work with, whether in forests, or from an old building or boat. The choice is a necessity for Watts, for our world and what art is, or can be, has changed dramatically. As he says: "I believe, in North America, we are now in a post-historical period." That post-historical world seeks to remove the traces of context, of accumulated time and history. For him, nature provides continuity, context and a history that parallels our own. Watts' process involves layering natural rubber from tree sap (vulcanized latex) up to six times on found forms, whether rock faces, trees, wooden boats, old barns or farmhouse walls. The real-life scale brings vitality to the resulting relief sculptures, which transform a fragment of the real world for display in the new site of the gallery. Traces of rock, of tree bark, wood or stone, are activated by light, generating a memory of place and of nature.
West coast artists Lance Betanger and Kitty Mykka Second Nature involves braiding grass forms, integrating them into nature. The work is set in the land as a woven element set into a living ecosystem. In their own words, "A braid is the weaving of three strands that finds parallels in many cultures, such as the braiding of sweet grass in indigenous traditional weaving. As well, this mirrors the DNA structures of a cell in the genetic makeup of a living thing and the celebratory patterns/rhythms we experience within nature. Weaving these relations, Second Nature creates a new landscape… a second nature of sorts."
From Chile, South America Pilar Ovalle There is an upward movement with 'Origines'. The piece recalls the classic marble sculpture "Winged Victory of Samothrace" from the 2nd century BC. Two raised limbs, arms, forms, extend upwards into the air. The artist's process of working with, and creating sculptures is as much about gesture as it is a metaphor and search for a greater depth and meaning about life. Ovalle finds her answers in the context of nature. She creates conscious metaphors that involve time and space, and our place in the continuum of life. Pilar Ovalle refers to Gustave Courbet's "l'Origine du Monde"/1866 as a source image for her three-dimensional sculpture piece. The actual wood used for the base, the support, is a kind of metaphor for the base of human existence, for it consists of Cipres de las Guaitecas wood from an archipelago in the southernmost regions of South America. The wood is resistant to weathering, and is commonly used and re-used for the foundations of houses, and in boat construction. Similarly Ovalle conceives of the discarded wood of a tree trunk in almost spiritual terms, as something she brings back to life. As Ovalle says, "It's love. Comes from a piece of driftwood of a dead tree found in the lime of a lake shore, it is form shaped by the elements, is the seed of the work." And integrated in the complex interweave of small wooden inserts, and cuttings, even layers of curvilinear forms at the base of 'Origines', we sense the processes of Ovalle's sculpture. The piece draws parallels with the recreation we find in nature's own procreative processes applied to sculpture. As with the 'Cabeza' (2009), two heads in the Royal Botanical Gardens collection, the interplay between carved wood and root/branch forms is conceived as a dialogue between the male and female aspects of each of us, and our origins in nature. Standing some five metres high, Ovalle's spreading legs, or arms, or wings, are all about healing the rift between humanity and nature, between our families and ourselves. The re-assembling of wood from North America, actually from the workshop cedar wood discards at the Royal Botanical Gardens with the Cipres de la Guatecas wood from Chile, and the extending of the forms upwards and outwards, is Ovalle's gesture is one of reintegration in a world where the disconnect between humanity and nature is greater than ever. The splicing of natural wood forms, with manufactured wood forms, causes us to understand the relation between wood in its original undulating state and its later processed board wood form. The natural wood forms are like a story or narrative in continuous time.
Earth Art 2014 signifies a gradual shift from Land Art into more integrative art, less about aesthetics and more about exploring our relation with and to nature, the source we all come from and are a part of. What is most noticeable, is that these artists are less concerned about producing object than expressions of a sustainable art that orchestrates an exchange with nature and the ecosystem. Lets celebrate the evolution of an art that challenges the dominant conceptual, image-based bias and new media context. New media helps us as consumers, transmitting information but Earth Art really does it, is participatory, exchanges directly. Here is an art form that is less virtual, and more virtuous, as tactile and hands on as art can be./Ephemeral Art curator John K. Grande, 2014
ALSO in this Fifth Season Magazine/JULY 2014 ISSUE:
ECOART MOBILES SHOWS