An exhibition title like ‘Sound the Alarm’ might very well elicit viewer fatigue these days, as both the art and the media landscape has, of recent, been somewhat saturated with global warming imagery and cries of imminent environmental deterioration. This carefully curated photography and painting exhibition at Wavehill’s Glyndor Gallery in the Bronx is strikingly powerful, though, in ways that other shows to date may not have been. Set amidst a lush garden estate and thriving cultural center, Sound the Alarm: Landscapes in Distress is proof that ‘interpreting’ nature and our relationship to and with it, is perhaps better understood while in the throes of nature and all its eco-messiness rather than in a gallery’s sleek, sanitized, white box.
photography by Abigail Doan
Sound the Alarm: Landscapes in Distress features an impressive roster of international photographers who have painstakingly documented the state of our environment – in all is fragility and resilient robustness. Alarming enviro-circumstances from the Artic to the Equator are boldly represented as are man-made imprints like rock quarrying, wildfires, burnt farmland, subterranean coal mines, and peoples displaced by some serious climate shift.
Biomonitors like moss and lichen are also shockingly off-color in the photos displayed, and communities as we may have known them seem to be a former charred shadow of their vibrant selves. Rainforest canopy images from Susannah Saylor’s The Canary Project are deceptively beautiful as one is drawn in by the sheer complexity of the vegetation and bio-mass in decay.
For out-of-towners who are unable to experience this transformative exhibit in person, you can visit Wavehill’s arts website for more details on the works and the bios of the artists in the show. What struck me the most when reading the curatorial notes prepared for the show’s opening was the evidence of ‘globalization and climate change’ right on Wavehill’s grounds. It is such a gorgeous and inviting locale, that it was truly alarming to read these comments by Sound the Alarm’s curators:
‘While this exhibit transports the viewer far a field, Wave Hill’s carefully maintained landscape has not escaped the effects of globalization and climate change. The trend toward hotter, dryer summers with erratic weather year-round, requires mitigation to maintain the correct level of moisture through irrigation, mulching and drainage. With globalization exotic pests and diseases have been introduced to the region such as Dutch elm disease, beech canker, sudden-oak death, Japanese beetles, Asian longhorn beetles, bronze birch borer, and European giant hornets. Invasive plants such as purple loosestrife, mugwort, Japanese knotweed, Rosa multiflora, Russian olive, and Asian bittersweet are now a huge problem in many ecosystems. Not all of these are currently on our grounds, but if not here already, they are not far. Self-guided maps are available at the desk that point out the species and areas affected by these pests and diseases.’
—Jennifer McGregor, Leigh Ross, Makeda Hinds
Sound the Alarm: Landscapes in Distress is on view at Wavehill’s Glyndor Gallery until June 1, 2008.