I first learned of Maggi Hambling from her polarizing public sculptures. A bust of writer Oscar Wilde lounges in a green granite coffin, smoking a cigarette and laughing at passersby behind St. Martins in the Field in London. A nude, silvered bronze statue of 18th-century feminist thinker Mary Wollstonecraft emerges from an undulating silver plinth, whose sides jut out like free-floating hips, in North London. There’s an irreverence to those sculptures, a cheekiness that refuses one-dimensional worship. But there’s nothing cheeky about Real Time, her first exhibition in New York City, now on view at Marlborough Gallery. Instead, the swirling, gestural, and surprisingly moving landscapes, seascapes, and portraits offer more somber reflections on climate change and death.
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For most of us, envisioning a world battered by the climate crisis is almost too excruciating. After all, it would require us to swallow the inconvenient truth and face our deepest fears.
NOT LONG AFTER he joined the Princeton University Art Museum in 2006, the curator Karl Kusserow wore a bracelet bearing the phrase “Stop global warming” to a staff meeting. His colleagues noticed (“It was,” he conceded, “kind of ugly and noticeable”), but only a few of them knew it referred to a cause. The term was just getting mainstream traction — this was the year Al Gore released “An Inconvenient Truth” and Vanity Fair launched its first Green issue. But the science suggesting that industrial societies have thrown climatic rhythms wildly out of whack had been around for decades. Just a year earlier, the environmentalist Bill McKibben had railed against the culture’s perceived indifference. “Where are the books? The poems? The plays? The goddamn operas?” he wrote in an op-ed for Grist. “Compare it to, say, the horror of AIDS … which has produced a staggering outpouring of art that, in turn, has had real political effect.” For future generations looking back on the present, “the single most significant item will doubtless be the sudden spiking temperature. But they’ll have a hell of a time figuring out what it meant to us.”
The DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) is a monthly discussion forum on art and science projects in the national capital region and beyond. DASERs provide the public with a snapshot of the cultural environment of the region and foster interdisciplinary networking.
“Prelude to 2100” is artist Susan Caraballo’s vision of a future Miami besieged by climate change. Set decades from now, this immersive arts experience allows us to see much of what we’ll need in order to live in a world that could change in ways we can’t — or don’t want to — imagine.
Last year, the Tribeca Film Festival awarded its inaugural prize in game design to Norco, a point-and-click adventure set in a refinery town on the Mississippi River. Designed by a small collaborative, Geography of Robots, the project had already earned a devoted online following for its art, which conjures a near-future Louisiana in twilit pixel-art tableaux: an android seated on a pickup’s tailgate; elevated highways crossing ancient cypress swamps; refinery stacks flaring against an emerald sky.
This year brought numerous weather disasters and countless opportunities to snap images of the power of nature.
Artists have considered the natural world since prehistoric times. From early cave paintings to Flemish landscapes, from the Hudson River School to today, there has always been a relationship between nature and the arts.
With every stroke of Jill Pelto’s brush, moments in time are captured before they literally melt away. She’s the Caravaggio of Climate Change and a Da Vinci of Data Art. Pelto is a glacier scientist and accomplished watercolor painter, blending two passions into what’s turning into a masterpiece of a career.