"More Than Just Pretty Pictures"
Liz Christensen on Art, Climate Change, and Her New Exhibition Feeling the
curator of „Feeling
new show at Deutsche Bank New York's 60 Wall Street Gallery is devoted to
one of the most explosive topics of our age - climate change. ”Feeling the
Heat” presents 16 artists who deal with this global problem in very
different ways. Achim Drucks talked with curator Liz Christensen
about the highlights of the show and the power of art to change awareness.
Johanson, Living Apartment Houses, 1969,
of the artist
Achim Drucks: How did the
idea for Feeling the Heat arise?
Christensen: The show is inspired by a couple of things. First of all the
topic of climate
change and Deutsche Bank’s growing commitment to help alleviate some
of its probable impact. I think the subject is very fascinating because it
is all about inter-connections and chain reactions. In fact it is
terrifying, but what I am interested in is how artists are responding to
the issues surrounding climate change. Secondly I was inspired by seeing
an exhibition organized by the art historian and critic Lucy
Lippard at the Boulder Museum of
Contemporary Art called Weather Report: Art and Climate Change.
It was very engaging, bringing together art and science, and the Colorado
Rockies were the perfect place to find lots of climate scientists studying
the subject! There is a core group of artists in Feeling the Heat
which were also in Weather Report. I added some artists from New
York because I wanted it to be more relevant to this area.
Johanson, Building that Cleans Its Own Water, 1969
of the artist
What are the highlights
of the show?
There are so many great
pieces, I love the drawings by Patricia
Johanson, who has been designing living landscapes patterned
after cabbages and flowers and animals, which are meant to grow and evolve
with the needs of their particular site.She has been working on all of
these ideas and creating public works since the 1960s.
Jordan, Office Paper, 2007
the series "Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait" (2006-2007)
of the Artist
Many people are awed by the two
works by Chris Jordan. His large
scale photographs show quantitatively the things we use on a daily basis.
One image actually shows thousands of tiny reams of paper - the amount of
office paper that is used in the United States in five minutes.
Consumption is linked to deforestation and finally ozone layer depletion
which affects climate. At first glance the photo looks like a very minimal Agnes
Martin drawing, but actually it is a massive wall of paper that the
artist has mathematically and digitally worked out. His images are very
powerful because they visually describe the data, and this hits you in a
different way than just hearing about statistics. It is one of the great
powers of art, that it can sometimes sneak up quietly and then hit you in
the head. The number one focus was to have a show with good art. I didn’t
want to have another photo show with melting icebergs.
Baxter&, Animal Preserve #8, 1999-2007
of the artist and Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Canada
artworks at 60 Wall Street Gallery cover very different approaches to the
subject from Subhankar
Banerjee’s photographs of migrating animals to Brian
Colliers installation The Pika Alarm,
about the danger of the Pika,
the rock rabbit, becoming extinct.
piece is actually an alarm. When you reach for one of the postcards that
are in a container on the wall a sound goes off in order too show the
alarming plight of this cute little fuzzy animal and its unfortunate
habitation loss. The Canadian artist Ian
Baxter also chides us about our attitudes and our perception of "wild
species in his piece", "Animal Preserve", which displays rows of stuffed
animals in jars on shelves inside mirrored medicine cabinets. There is a
wide range of artistic strategies offered here - from agit prop to poetic
responses. The underlying theme is what’s happening in the environment,
for better or worse. Joel
Sternfeld’s facial portraits of attendees to a UN Climate Change
summit meeting reflect that perfectly.
Joel Sternfeld, Victor Orindi,
the series "When It Changed", 2005,
of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York
is also a link here to a long tradition of artists recording what they see
in the landscape, a 19th C. Romantic
relationship to nature…
Rockman’s paintings and Subhankar Banerjee’s photographs would
be good examples of the more Romantic or poetically inclined. Subhankar
photographs from an airplane these beautiful Artic expanses, but looking
closer, subtle cracks and thinning ice beneath lines of migrating caribou
illustrate a tenuous position due to global warming. His series is called Oil
and the Caribou because it is a highly contested area for oil drilling
and one of the last wildlife refuges left. Alexis Rockman also continues a
great tradition of portraying landscape, but with a more fanciful twist –
his painting Hotelscape shows the city of Las Vegas post-climate
meltdown, where only the architectural remains of the hotel casinos and
the heartiest of molluscs and horny toads survive no matter what.
Banerjee, Caribou Migration I,
the series "Oil and the Caribou", 2002
of Tagore Foundation International,
Some works give us the
opportunity to actually do something.
intersection of art and activism is an important part of the exhibition.
These artists are not just making pretty pictures, they are inspired to
take action. Eve
Mosher, whose video HighWaterLine
(2007) is on view, spent all last summer walking through Lower
Manhattan and Lower Brooklyn marking the 10 foot water line where storm
surge water would reach based on statistics worked out with NASA
climatologists. She was marking this line for residents so that they would
actually see where this line of water would be in relation to where they
live and work. It gave her an opportunity to proactively engage with
people. Art can change attitudes and maybe even lives. Isabella
Gonzales, an artist from New Mexico, has a bilingual piece called 2
Cents Worth that is located outside of our cafeteria. It’s a
kitchenette table from the 1950s and it has two umbrellas suspended with
pennies raining down. The point of it is that the ozone layer is roughly
the thickness of two pennies. It’s also making a play on the American
expression "putting in your 2 cents worth," which is your contribution.
And you have the chance to make your contribution. There is a jar there,
where you can put in your two cents for the future of our planet, for your
children or grandchildren. There are postcards in Spanish and English that
you can send out to your congressional representatives to ask them to
support legislation that protects the environment. Every little bit helps.
Mosher, HighWaterLine, 2007, Video,
of the Artist
But can art really raise
I certainly believe
art can raise consciousness. One of the aims of Feeling the Heat is
to get people more involved in this topic and find out what Deutsche Bank
is doing. From both the business and the philanthropic sides, Deutsche
Bank has committed to seeking solutions to these problems. Currently, the
Bank manages $11 billion of investments to fight climate change, and
started one of the first mutual funds dedicated to companies that are
involved in climate change adaptation and mitigation. In philanthropy,
Deutsche Bank is working with the City of New York to help finance the
conversion of the black car limousine fleet to hybrid cars, which is
expected to reduce the city's annual greenhouse gas emissions by 137,000
tons. In addition, the bank has committed to arranging $1 billion in
financing through the Clinton
Climate Initiative, an effort to achieve greenhouse gas reduction by
retrofitting buildings for greater efficiency in the world's 40 largest
cities. And Deutsche Bank is participating in an ISO
14001 process, an environmental management system that helps move the
bank steadily towards its sustainability goals. It involves setting
benchmarks for all elements of Deutsche Bank's buildings from electricity
to recycling paper and then implementing processes to achieve these
Rockman, Hotelscape, 2006
of Leo Koenig Gallery
Please tell us
about the 60 Wall Street Gallery’s program.
curatorial focus is to feature exhibitions of contemporary art that have
resonance with the times. We try to address topics that are relevant to
Deutsche Bank staff and clients and sometimes work with guest curators to
bring in fresh perspectives from a particular area of expertise. We have
at least one show a year that features art from the Deutsche
Bank Collection, highlighting the focus of the bank’s art program,
which is to support young, emerging or under-recognized artists. The
gallery also presents works related to the organizations that we support,
creating synergies between our community activities and our artistic ones.
20. May - 24.
60 Wall Street Gallery
York City 10005