Storm King Presents 'Indicators: Artists on Climate Change'

  • NEW WINDSOR, New York
  • /
  • May 20, 2018

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Jenny Kendler, Birds Watching (digital mockup), featuring the eyes of species threatened by climate change.
Storm King Art Center

From May 19 to Nov. 11, Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, NY, presents Indicators: Artists on Climate Change, an exhibition featuring artworks by more than a dozen artists. Works included in the exhibition explore the impacts of the changing climate in ways that incorporate scientific, cultural, and aesthetic perspectives. Artists will reveal how the acts of making and viewing art differ in both approach and effect from research, advocacy, or reportage on this multifaceted subject. Both indoor and outdoor installations, including pieces newly created for the exhibition at Storm King, will illuminate the threats of a changing climate to our biological world and to humanity. Indicators provides artists with a platform from which to reflect on the topic of climate change by creating works that can command attention for difficult subjects and catalyze creativity, ideas, and solutions.

Mary Mattingly, Proposal for Storm King in Zone 10.
Storm King Art Center

John P. Stern, President of Storm King, says, “From its founding in 1960, Storm King has prioritized environmental projects including land conservation, reclamation of industrial sites for sensitive landscaping for art using native plants, and preservation of wildlife habitat corridors in the Hudson Valley. This exhibition features artists whose site-sensitive and site-specific works resonate with Storm King’s mission and history of environmental stewardship and that further the dialogue between art and nature while also speaking to broader issues that affect regional,
national, and global ecological health.”

The organizers of the exhibition are Nora Lawrence, Curator; David Collens, Director and Chief Curator; and Sarah Diver, Curatorial Assistant, who collaborated closely with artists to develop their ideas and proposed projects for the exhibition. Participating artists include: David Brooks, Dear Climate, Mark Dion, Ellie Ga, Justin Brice Guariglia, Allison Janae Hamilton, Jenny Kendler, Maya Lin, Mary Mattingly, Mike Nelson, Steve Rowell, Gabriela Salazar, Tavares Strachan, Meg Webster, and Hara Woltz.

“With its mission to foster the bond between art, nature, and visitors, Storm King’s 500-acre setting offers a stunning backdrop for an exhibition of this kind, one that explores new ways for the public to understand the effects of climate change and, hopefully, take action to help curb its advances,” explains Lawrence.

Many artists have created new, site-specific works that use Storm King’s unique landscape and location to examine the challenges and repercussions of this global issue. Although united by this overarching theme, works included in Indicators span a variety of media and represent a wide spectrum of interpretations, perspectives, and ideas related to climate change.

For his newly created work, Permanent Field Observations, artist David Brooks (b. 1975) has identified several natural elements found throughout Storm King’s peripheral wooded areas to cast in bronze. Brooks will cast objects, like rotting tree stumps, tangles of roots, acorns perched atop emerging rocks, and other naturally occurring minutia, and install the bronze renditions back in their original locations next to the objects from which they were cast, where they will remain permanently affixed in place. These elements that were chosen for their compositional sensibility are, in his words, “ephemeral sculptural situations that act as veritable ready-mades.”

Brooks is interested in the relationship between geologic and human timelines; hence, the bronze-cast elements will be in-situ forever, like fossils detailing this climate moment for future generations and species. A map on view in the Museum Building gallery plots the precise locations of these fossilized field observations, which visitors can use to perform their own search for the objects.

This project reveals the frustration involved in looking for something difficult to apprehend, like climate change itself.

Dear Climate (2014–ongoing) is a creative-research project that hacks the aesthetics of public information posters and guided meditation podcasts to shift ways of thinking and feeling about the climate. In this, their first outdoor installation, Dear Climate circles Storm King’s first tram stop with a series of banners that invite visitors to reconsider their relationships to species life and climate change. Dear Climate is: Marina Zurkow, Una Chaudhuri, Fritz Ertl, and Oliver Kellhammer.

A sculpture by Mark Dion (b. 1961) will be situated near the pond in Storm King’s South Fields. Recently featured in Prospect.4 New Orleans, the work is entitled Field Station for the Melancholy Marine Biologist, and is a weathered wooden cabin filled with the trappings of a scientific lab station. Once installed at Storm King, the contents of the “lab” will reflect the ecology of the surrounding area, highlighting Dion’s practice of appropriating archaeological and scientific methods to question authoritative knowledge about our environments.

Selections from The Fortunetellers, a multimedia project by Ellie Ga (b. 1976), will be on display inside in the Museum Building. The project centers on the artist’s experience as a crewmember aboard the ‘Tara,’ the second boat in recorded Arctic history built to withstand the pressure of pack ice for years at a time. A reflection of her five-month expedition near the North Pole, the project constructs a visual narrative of Ga’s experience as a resident artist alongside the climate scientists and fellow crew aboard the ship, as they collected data to measure and contribute to a future understanding of the Arctic pack ice. The details Ga chooses to highlight are rich with
larger symbolism. Ga and the crew aboard the Tara were themselves obsessed with their own future: how long they would keep drifting and when they would get back home. Tarot cards (an element of the installation reminiscent of the ship’s name) signify the uncertainty of this future, and the lines of a palm reading conjure up the image of prematurely cracking ice.

Artist and environmental activist Justin Brice Guariglia (b. 1974) will present a group of topographical works inside the Museum building, featuring aerial imagery of landscapes affected by human activities including mining and agriculture. Guariglia's surprisingly beautiful images incorporate traditional art materials and precious metals— including copper, gold, and platinum—that have been abraded with power tools. Guariglia will also debut a large outdoor work entitled Ecologisms (Highway Sign 1.0), a solar-powered traffic sign that displays three-line ecological aphorisms written by the philosopher Timothy Morton, whose work lies at the intersection of
object-oriented thought and ecological studies. These ominous but often amusing slogans point to the complicity of mankind in changes to the planet.

Allison Janae Hamilton (b. 1984), a New York-based visual artist, will create a new work entitled The peo-ple cried mer-cy in the storm, comprising a towering stack of tambourines on an island in one of Storm King’s ponds. The installation was inspired by “Florida Storm,” a 1928 hymn written by Judge Jackson about the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, as well as accounts of the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, referenced in Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Both storms devastated the state of Florida, the latter killing thousands of black migrant workers who were buried in unmarked mass graves. The work contemplates how climate-related
disasters can expose existing social inequities and how affected communities contend with this twofold devastation. A performance will activate the installation at Storm King, involving musicians presenting a soundscape arranged by Hamilton and inspired by the original “Florida Storm.”

Jenny Kendler (b.1980), Chicago-based artist and current artist-in-residence with the Natural Resources Defense Council, drew inspiration for her site-specific commission, Birds Watching, from researching local species of birds present in the Hudson Valley. She will present an installation of reflective aluminum signs, each depicting a massively scaled, realistic bird’s eye. Some 50-100 eyes will be included, each representing a species of native bird facing the threat of extinction due to climate change. Kendler emphasizes ideas of reflectivity and reciprocal vision, reminding us that birds are also sentient beings capable of looking back at us.

Brooklyn-based artist Mary Mattingly (b. 1978) will expand upon her past investigations into issues of sustainability, climate change, and displacement in her project, planting several different types of tropical trees, mainly palms, in Storm King’s South Fields. In conversation with the migration of tree species due to climate change, Mattingly’s work offers a visible demonstration of the reverberations of climate change within Storm King’s environment by transforming the landscape. 

Mike Nelson (b. 1967), a British artist best known for his labyrinthine architectural installations, will present a work inside the Museum Building entitled 80 Circles Through Canada: The Last Possessions of an Orcadian Mountain Man (2013). Informed by his friend and collaborator, the artist and mountaineer Erlend Williamson, the piece comprises a large set of driftwood shelves laden with Williamson’s last possessions before falling to his death in the Scottish Highlands. The reverse of the structure acts as a screen on which to project 80 transparencies of discarded stone fire circles, found and documented between Banff and Vancouver in 2012-13. The exhibition at Storm King marks the first time this work will be shown in the United States.

A New York-based artist of Puerto Rican descent, Gabriela Salazar (b.1981) will incorporate her family’s history as coffee growers into a built environment in dialogue both with post-hurricane temporary shelters erected in the Caribbean and the semilleros used to protect young coffee seedlings. The installation will feature a tent structure draped with a blue tarp over a platform of cinderblock forms made from both concrete and compressed coffee grounds. Throughout the course of the exhibition, Salazar will exchange select concrete blocks for blocks made of coffee grounds, which will slowly disintegrate. These precarious blocks will leave a new and ever-shifting 
imprint upon the space, reiterating its impermanence. Salazar’s project raises difficult questions regarding the use of concrete, a material that is vital to climate-change-related hurricane protection and building, yet whose manufacture is also one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in the world.

A work by Tavares Strachan (b. 1979), a New York-based artist who represented the Bahamas in the 2013 Venice Biennale, utilizes scientific and cultural phenomena to explore misconceptions within social conversations. Strachan’s blue neon sculpture, entitled Sometimes Lies are Prettier (2017), will be on view in Storm King’s indoor galleries.

Artist Hara Woltz (b. 1971) will present a work that creates a varied sensory experience incorporating aspects of climate change, predictability, and the collection of data. Weather stations capture and record climate data and contribute to understanding of how environments change over time. A weather station may consist of a single piece of equipment that serves multiple functions, or multiple instruments arrayed across a landscape. Woltz will position ten interactive elements, fabricated from painted aluminum and wood, as part of a weather station
where visitors will be encouraged to sit and experience the differences in temperature between various material and color sections. The elements of the piece will be informed by predictions of Arctic sea ice melt by decade and related sea level rise, as well as the process of collecting climate data. A temperature differential between the materials and surfaces of this piece will allow visitors to feel and consider the reflectivity of ice and the heat absorptive properties of sea water.

Works by Maya Lin, Meg Webster, Steve Rowell, and others are also included in the exhibition.

Exhibition Catalogue
The illustrated exhibition catalogue will include texts on each work in the exhibition; often in the artists’ own words. It will also include an essay by Curator Nora Lawrence, which will speak to larger themes of works in the exhibition, and reflect on the importance of an exhibition of this nature at Storm King. The catalogue will be available in the Storm King Museum Shop and online beginning June 2018.

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