Christian Houge, Untitled 12, 2016, archival pigment print, 39 3/8 x 118 1/8 inches
On this Earth Day, our edition of HG Magazine focuses on meaningful actions to address the dire state of the planet.
Christian Houge, Untitled 14, 2018, archival pigment print, 26 x 78 3/4 inches
Early each spring, as skies clear and buds appear, the residents of Belvédère and other villages surrounding Switzerland’s Rhône Glacier unpack giant white tarps and cover the ancient landmark. The fleece blankets stall—but cannot halt—the glacier’s transformation from colossus to slushy lake. Christian Houge
´s photo series, Death of a Mountain
(2020), documents this deterioration and explores our relationship to the planet’s fragile state.
Christian Houge, Untitled 13, 2019, archival pigment print, 26 x 78 3/4 inches
On several trips from 2016 to 2020, Houge visited the site, installing analog, panoramic cameras to capture the glacier’s immensity and vulnerability. The long exposure times of the photographs highlight the movement of the textile, which ripples and folds along the glacier’s icy contours, evoking drapery of marble sculptures from Greek and Roman antiquity, while the photographer’s point of view emphasizes the relative insignificance of the human body.
Marble statue of a woman, 4th century B.C., Greece, © Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access
Christian Houge, Untitled 7, 2019, archival pigment print, 39 3/8 x 118 1/8 inches
Though the Rhône Glacier’s painstaking wrapping by well-intentioned citizens is not intended to create an aesthetic event, the effect evokes Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s environmental interventions in which they, with their dedicated teams, carefully wrapped monuments and landscapes, to isolate and call attention to them… or conversely, to ask us to imagine what happens if they disappear.
Christian Houge, Untitled 17, 2017, archival pigment print, 39 3/8 x 118 1/8 inches
Houge’s encounters with the glacier became acutely intimate; as he described it, “the glacier kept changing its appearance and personality, making each meeting more like taking new portraits of a familiar person.” These abstracted “portraits” of the glacier anthropomorphize the slowly wasting corporeal form, asking us to identify with them and understand ourselves as part of the natural world we’re destroying.
Christian Houge, Untitled 5, 2019, archival pigment print, 26 x 78 3/4 inches
As the symptoms of climate change become more severe and explicit, artists call our attention to the urgency of the situation. And while Death of a Mountain is about loss, it offers an invitation to engage with the planet, to swaddle and care for it, and to find any and every way we can to make a difference.
Using map-based iconography, Lordy Rodriguez
makes drawings that explore social and political issues. His most recent series—based on bodies of water—tackles issues of environmental degradation.
Lordy Rodriguez, Lake Karachay, 2022, ink on paper, 30 x 21 1/2 inches
Lake Karachay is the most radioactively polluted place in the world. Located in the Southern Ural Mountains in Russia, it was used as a dump for highly radioactive material from the Mayak reactor that refined plutonium for Cold War-era Soviet atomic weaponry. During a drought in the 1960s, the lake dried up and winds dispersed radioactive dust, irradiating 500,000 people. Between 1978 and 2016 the lakebed was filled with concrete blocks, soil and rocks to keep the toxic sediments in place, but in 1990, the radiation level in the area was still so high that even an hour-long exposure would be lethal to a human.
Lordy Rodriguez, Lake Karachay, 2022 (detail), ink on paper, 30 x 21 1/2 inches
Four Rivers juxtaposes diagrams of the four waterways most heavily polluted with plastic wastes. Passing through numerous urban and manufacturing centers, these rivers are fouled with an estimated 8,000,000 tons of plastic garbage a year, most of which gets disgorged into our oceans. Between ¼ and ½ of that mass comes from one river – the Yangtze. The Ganges, Xi (the Western tributary of the Pearl River) and Huang (Yellow River) round out this rogue’s gallery.
Lordy Rodriguez, Four Rivers, 2022, ink on paper, 30 x 21 1/2 inches
Rodriguez depicts the background of this drawing as a grid within a grid to refer to the streets of an urban center as well as the typical layout of windows in factories and warehouses. His point: the (mis)use of plastics is part and parcel of our reliance on the cheap labor and lack of environmental regulations in global manufacturing centers in places such as China and India. Our demand for inexpensive stuff fuels the industries and governments that put profits above the health of people and the environment. There’s nothing about this type of pollution that is technologically or technically impossible to fix—it’s purely economics.
The Natural Resources Defense Council's website provides an excellent resource for more information.
Cornelius Völker, Rubbish, 2006. oil on canvas,102 3/8 x 70 7/8 inches
40% of the food supply in the U.S. goes to waste. That’s $408 billion down the drain. And when we waste food, the water, energy, agricultural chemicals, labor, and other resources we put into growing, distributing, selling, and cooking that food get wasted too. To make matters worse, 95% of the food we dispose of ends up in the landfill, where it emits methane, contributing to global warming.
Most food waste happens in homes. The Natural Resources Defense Council has has put together a website with simple strategies for shopping, planning, storing and cooking: Save the Food
Cornelius Völker, Raspberries, 2008, oil on vellum, 13 3/4 x 17 3/4 inches
Even with best practices around food use, you’ll have scraps. NRDC explains how to make sure they don’t end up in the landfill in their article Composting Is Way Easier Than You Think
Special thanks to Darby Hoover, Senior Resource Specialist in Food Waste Initiatives at the Natural Resources Defense Council, for her expertise in compiling and sharing this information.
Patricia Piccinini, The Cleaner, 2019, fiberglass, auto paint, silicone and hair, 11 3/4 x 27 1/2 x 35 3/8 inches
Courtesy of the San José Museum of Art. Gift of the Lipman Family Foundation. 2022.02
We completed the Gallery Climate Coalition
's carbon calculator for 2019 (thank you Dianne and Brooke!) as our base year from which to develop a decarbonization plan in line with the Paris Agreement of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.
° In 2019 we calculated a total carbon footprint of 93.77 cubic tons, primarily from shipping and travel
° Our newly completed 2021 carbon audit indicated a total footprint of 44.24 cubic tons, representing a 53% reduction in carbon usage from 2019
° We are aiming to reduce our 2022 carbon footprint by an additional 15%
Visit the Gallery Climate Coalition website to find extensive free resources
, including a carbon calculator and data gathering template, guidelines for effective action and developing a decarbonization plan, analysis of strategic climate funds versus carbon offsets, information on greener methods of shipping, traveling, and packaging, and much more.
Other actions our staff members are involved in include:
° Working with local colleagues to establish a "crate bank" for the exchange and reuse of artwork crates
° Spearheading the development of a sustainability model for a major American art fair, which, once completed, will be made freely available to other art fairs and organizations
° Participating in fewer art fairs
° Consolidating trips in order to fly less
° Traveling by train between European cities
° Taking public transportation or walking to/from work
° Avoiding the commute by working one day a week from home
° Making and bringing our lunch to work
We want to give a shout out to Art + Climate Action
, which helps organi-zations (large and small) take account of their carbon output and provide strategic solutions for achieving zero-emissions practices. Their next monthly community meeting happens via Zoom on May 6, 2022 at 9:30 am PT, featuring Barder.art
, a peer-to-peer, resource-sharing website that allows users to source materials like crates, frames, and AV equipment for less, and post items to offload. Register for a link to the meeting and agenda here
—painter, environmental activist and research associate at the California Academy of Sciences—shares her wisdom and suggestions for effective actions we all can take to make a difference:Here we are on this Earth Day 2022 facing ever worsening news on all ecological fronts. It is depressing. Let’s call it what it is: eco-grief.
One of the best antidotes to so many forms of depression is ACTION. Here is what I do when I want to feel like I am making a difference, while actually making a difference! Give… time, interest, money, all are good forms of giving. Some simple things to do are to use and contribute to the iNaturalist app (and its SEEK version for kids). The data you upload as a citizen scientist (observer) can be used by trained scientists in their on-going work.
Isabella Kirkland, Nova: Forest Floor, 2007, oil and alkyd on polyester over wood panel, 36 x 72 inches
Just as it helps researchers to have a million eyes on the ground observing biota, B612 uses amateur astronomers (i.e. telescope owners) with their million eyes on the sky to detect astroids that could come into Earth’s path. If existential risk is what you find most compelling, consider giving to B612, to help make sure there IS an Earth to save.
If you want to give time, it is easy to look up a group that is interested in your target plant or animal group. You will be surprised how many nonprofits there are specializing in Just cats, Just toads, Just turtles, Just native plants. Much conservation work is physical work… weeding any one? Spending time outdoors generates vitamin D and there are microbes in soil that operate the same way Prozac does on your brain—it makes you happy. Working outside is great during COVID (with distancing); the COVID virus (daily very much still with us) cannot live more than a few minutes in sunshine. Don’t get down, get up and go.
If you want to give money, a good place to start is a fine book called DOING GOOD BETTER: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make Smarter Choices About Giving Back by William MacAskill. While Mr. MacAskill’s book is largely about philanthropy in the human health realm, the book’s lessons apply to all philanthropy. If you are going to give money, give it to an organization that works efficiently, transparently, fiscally soundly, and with well stated goals that align with your own. Use a site like Charity Navigator to choose a recipient of your largesse. This site has a strong ecological section, is clear and easy to use, with active links to individual charities. It also has its own fund to aggregate your donation with others’ for targeted actions.
Isabella Kirkland, By a Thread (Bruin's Bush Turkey & Sicols Alba), 2005, oil and alkyd on clay board, 20 x 16 inches
Not all charities are listed on these donation assessment sites. My favorite philanthropic organization is artist-founded and art world-funded ART INTO ACRES. Every penny you give is matched by other funders and every cent goes to the sequestration or protection of acreage:
Art into Acres (DBA Art to Acres) is an artist-founded non-profit environmental and art initiative based in California focusing on large-scale land conservation for climate, Indigenous peoples and biodiversity support. Founded in 2017, the initiative stewarded the permanent conservation of 22 million acres of tropical and boreal forests on behalf of artists, galleries and institutions, in conjunction with matching funds partners, into the creation of new National Parks, Regional Parks, Indigenous Reserves and a range of International Union for Conservation of Nature 1a and 1b reserves in the form of land trusts and civil associations.
All of these ways to be involved benefit others, the next generation. Don’t just feel powerless, do something… get out of your own head and get busy!
Closing Saturday: Judith Belzer & Birgit Jensen
Judith Belzer, All That is Solid #25, 2021 (installation view), oil on canvas, 96 x 84 inches
In her debut exhibition at the gallery, Judith Belzer presents her newest series of paintings developed over the past 3 years. The unusual protagonists in this body of work are rocks, ranging in size from diminutive to massive and hovering in precarious relationship to each other, to the ambiguous spaces they inhabit, and to the viewer.
Birgit Jensen, FOG VI, 2022, acrylic on linen, 66 7/8 x 55 1/8 inches
Birgit Jensen is interested in the connection between artifice and truth and the role of mediation in our pursuit of perfection. In service of that exploration, she’s created a group of atmospheric landscape paintings, carefully constructed to suggest they might be photographic.
Jim Campbell, Edition 28 (Surf), 2021, custom electronics, 384 LEDs, treated plexiglass, 15 1/2 x 22 3/4 x 2 7/8 inches
Gerhard Mayer, 383, 2020, ink on paper, 13 1/2 x 17 1/8 inches/34.3 x 43.4 cm
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