If you’re in the Bay Area and want to catch a glimpse of some on-point environmental artwork, head out to Swarm Gallery this weekend (hey, the Bay Bridge is back open, right?). On display at the gallery, until tomorrow (Sunday, September 13th), are works from Josh Keyes, whose surreal paintings you might have seen gracing the parking structure next to the Dean Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, and Vaughn Bell, a Seattle-based artist who is hilarious, by which I mean you can stick your head in a box full of plants.
Both Bell and Keyes’ work humorously explore the relationship of people and civilization to the natural world. Bell makes a variety of sculpture, installation and participatory art — one of the pieces up at Swarm is a series of Pocket Biospheres visitors can adopt and take home. Your’s truly visited the gallery and had a photo taken while inside one of Bell’s other pieces, Personal Biospheres, a one-person greenhouse.
Keyes makes paintings and murals that re-mix images of forest creatures with the urban landscape; some of them have a vaguely post-apocalyptic feel. In his work, mountains become mushrooms, asphalt dissolves in wild growth, and fire hydrants are drowned in rising tides.
So is it ridiculous for us to think that we can be stewards of the earth? Is there some greater regulating cycle or force? Conversely, what kind of position have we put ourselves in by isolating nature and making in dependent on our maintenance of it? These are complex issues expertly addressed by these two artists.
The exhibition at Swarm closes on September 13th: Keyes’ three paintings on display have already sold, and a great many of Bell’s biospheres have been pocketed. Swing by this great space in Downtown Oakland for a glimpse of some powerful environmental art before it disappears.