Oct. 15, 2008

'From Earth Art to Eco Art' marks 40th anniversary of historic Cornell exhibit

The A.D. White House is hosting an art and theory workshop, "From Earth Art to Eco Art," Oct. 17-18, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the landmark "Earth Art Exhibition."

In February 1969, the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art at Cornell was the primary site for projects and installations by artists Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Hans Haacke, Richard Long, Jan Dibbetts, Neil Jenney, David Medalla, Robert Morris and Gunther Uecker.

"It was only the second international show of what became a very influential genre of installation art," said Timothy Murray, director of the Society for the Humanities, who organized the workshop with Department of Art chair Patricia Phillips.

Working with exhibit curator Willoughby Sharp, museum director Thomas Leavitt asked students and artists to create additional sculptural works and excavations all over campus.

"Robert Smithson did his famous salt installations [inside the museum] and Dennis Oppenheim cut, using chain saws, a literal channel through the ice on Beebe Lake," Murray said. "Tom recruited students to build these installations all over the place. It was such a huge hit, it became part of a massive international art movement."

Leavitt will be a guest of honor at the workshop, open to the public Oct. 17 from 1 to 4 p.m. and Oct. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Participants will reflect on the art's aesthetics and socio-political effects extending to recent digital and sculptural interventions in land and ecological art.

The "Earth Art" anniversary coincides with the Society for the Humanities' 2008-09 research theme, "Water: A Critical Concept for the Humanities."

"When I discovered it was the 40th anniversary, I thought it would be an important thing to remember in relation to the history of the house," Murray said. The workshop will address "the impact of a new explosion of art around issues of ecology and sustainability," he said. "A lot of works in this area have strong technological platforms, which we're archiving as well."

Marilyn Rivchin, a senior lecturer in film, worked at the museum in 1969 and shot footage of "Earth Art" installations, to be screened Friday. Sharp will deliver remarks at the opening session, which includes a collective project proposal by assistant professor of art Renate Ferro; a discussion of the 1969 exhibition's historical importance with former Cornell art history graduate student Navjotika Kuma and Marin Sullivan of the University of Michigan; and a slideshow of archival photographs from Kroch Library.

Oppenheim will give a plenary lecture Oct. 17 at 4:30 p.m. His work since the late 1960s has evolved from earth and body art, video and performance art to the transformation of everyday objects, machine pieces and large-scale architectural sculpture.

On Oct. 18, artists will discuss contemporary experiments in digital and installation-based ecological art. They include Brandon Ballengée, who works with fish and amphibians, combining environmental art with ecological research; collaborators Christine Nadir and Cary Peppermint (Colgate University); environmental artist Stacy Levy; and composer/sound artist Daniel Warner (Hampshire College). The session includes lectures by Phillips; Society for the Humanities fellow Verena Andermatt Conley (Harvard University); and Patricia Zimmerman (Ithaca College), co-director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

The workshop is supported by the Society for the Humanities, the Cornell Council for the Arts and the Rose Goldsen Lecture Series; co-sponsors include Cornell Library and Cornell Cinema. For information, contact Murray at tcm1@cornell.edu.