Thursday, April 9, 2015

Space, Land, and Concept Not Only in the American West

Agnes Denes

Hungarian-born in 1931, Agnes Denes and her family relocated to the United States. She studied painting at Columbia University in New York. Denes spends a lot of time on the philosophy and concept behind her work. She is also interested in ecological and environmental concerns.

To set the stage, Kristina started off by listing just how accomplished Denes is as a woman artist. She has received many notable awards, fellowships, and grants. Through her drawings and prints, she explores her interest in mathematics, philosophy, geography, science and other disciplines.

Agnes Denes, Wheatfield--A Confrontation, 1982

The class spent time with her well-known piece, Wheatfield—A Confrontation, 1982, New York, New York. Wheatfield is a field of golden wheat on two acres of what would be prime real estate near Wall Street and the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. The growth and harvest of wheat brings ideas of the natural cycle of growth and regeneration.  The juxtaposition of wheat against a concrete landscape brought attention to national hunger and mismanagement of resources.

Agnes Denes, Wheatfield--A Confrontation, 1982

Maya Lin 

Maya Lin has created a number of intriguing, thought provoking, significant, and responsive pieces of art. Her influences, themes, and conceptual reasoning behind her earthworks include: environmental activism; concern for humans’ affect on nature; balancing opposites; using technology to reinvent an audiences’ way of viewing her art and thus the landscape around it; incorporating time in her work; creating an environment that can affect a person and make them think about the topic at hand. Her concepts are strong throughout her pieces, and this is one of the main reasons why I admire, connect with, and find interest in her work.

Lin with her design for the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, Washington, DC, 1981

Unlike many other artists we’ve talked about thus far, Lin’s work is placed in urban, populated areas in which humans can readily interact with and get to fairly easily—considerably so when compared to Holt’s Sun Tunnels, for example. She creates work that makes us reconsider our environment, perhaps one that we are all too familiar with. But after seeing Lin’s art piece within the environment, we are able to come to a new conclusion about the land.

Maya Lin's Confluence Project

Some of Lin’s work combines historical evidence, environmental concerns, and draws attention to the balance of opposing themes. In her Confluence Project, she created many sites that used text from Louis & Clark’s exploration journals, Native American traditions and beliefs, and natural materials. She created a pier and basalt structure with engravings of Native America lore and Louis & Clark’s documentations. A second piece used old cedar driftwood pieces to create a kind of sanctuary setting while also highlighting Native American beliefs. A third piece of this project was a large wooden-slat suspended structure that incorporated wildlife facts from the explorers’ journals and recent scientific data about the species the two men discussed two hundred years ago when they charted the same area. Time, history, science, art, and activism are all essential to the reasoning behind the many pieces of wonderful work that Maya Lin creates for us, as viewers, to see, experience, explore, interact with, and react to.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude 

Christo and Jeanne-Claude were a married couple who worked together on environmental earthworks. They also shared the same birth date of June 13, 1935. The late (she died on November 18, 2009)

Jeanne-Claude took the more business manager, art dealer role, but was right there with Christo when creating these large earthworks. Growing up, Christo was exposed to the arts at an early age, including Russian theatre. This is important, because many art critics question if his work is related to theatre. The class agreed that maybe “theatre” is not the best word to describe his work, but “performance” seems more suited.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Umbrellas, 1984-91

He’s early works are know for “wrapping,” but the one we spent the most time discussing was The Umbrellas, Japan-U.S.A., 1984-91. He usually includes the amount of time each project takes from idea to realization in the title of the works in order to put an emphasis on how much time and planning goes into each project.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Umbrellas, 1984-91

Besides the grand scale of the pieces, another disguising factor in Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work is that they fund the projects completely by themselves. They do not receive grants. They do not work with artist originations, such as the DIA that the class has encountered in the past. This allows Christo and Jeanne-Claude to work freely with their ideas, which shows in their realized projects. There is much discussion over how to categorize their work, conceptual art or environmental art? But what always prevails is that their work is a spectacle that gives people from around the world a reason to travel.

Nicole Nikas & Mikayla Carpenter

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