If you’re making a field recording in a forest and an airplane flies overhead, do you turn off your microphone or do you leave it on? That was the question Geoff Manaugh posed in an essay about The Altered Landscape, a 2011 exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art that examined how contemporary photographers treat nature. I bring it up because the issue raised surfaces in this show as well: Namely, is "on or "off" the only choice available for artists dealing with nature?
Manaugh believes there's a middle position, one that stands between “nostalgic Romanticism” and the “airplanes-and-all approach.” He calls it the New Sublime, and in Journey Forth: Contemporary Landscape Between Technology and Tradition, a show that brings together painting, sculpture, collage, video and various hybrids to explore the man-nature relationship, that is what we see. Consisting of 24 works by ten artists, it navigates the gulf between idealism and reality. The unseen backdrop against which this exercise takes place is the Hudson River School, a designation that encompasses a group of 19th century painters who presented a rosy-fingered vision of the American continent at a time when historical developments were fast rendering it obsolete.
and knowing incarnations. Ultimately, what shines through is the artists’ affection for the genre. Their version of it, which is dominated by pale skies and strong horizon lines, recalls Richard Diebenkorn in his Ocean Park phase, an association that brings a certain juiciness to an otherwise dry enterprise. Yet dryness, if you think about the the materials involved, is exactly what this work is about. Drywall. Development. Drought. The equation seems clear.
Gregory Euclid’s wall-mounted dioramas, composed of organic matter, craft store materials and painted paper, constitute hanging gardens – of a sort. Whimsical and inventive, they take aim at the artificial distinctions made between nature and the so-called built environment. While figures are absent, the residue of human activity hovers like an aura.
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