Introduction: The value of addressing contemporary eco art from an art historical perspective far exceeds constructing a list of influences and precedents. The history of this burgeoning art movement reveals a seismic shift in humanity’s relationship with the planet’s myriad living populations, substances, and conditions, awkwardly referred to as ‘nature’. Masterworks from across time and space provide evidence that nature provided the wellspring of metaphors, the standards of beauty, and the sources of wisdom that inspired them. Today, ‘nature’ is so beleaguered, it no longer seems capable of providing solace and insight.

However, today’s artists have not abandoned art making because the age-old source of inspiration has been corrupted. The resilience and ingenuity of the artists in this book demonstrate that nature’s role has shifted in response to its current jeopardy. Artists are joining the ranks of environmentally conscious people who, instead of ‘taking’ inspiration, are ’offering’ behavioral reforms and determined attempts at remediation. They are striving to restore nature’s material splendor, its teeming forms of life, and its mighty forces. Thus, while art movements, and aesthetic concepts, and strategies of art display, and conditions for art production comprise the content of the research and discussion topics that follow, interactions with non-human realms, as conveyed by eco artists, provide this section’s significant subtext.

Alan Sonfist

Although Alan Sonfist produces sculptures, photographs, collages, and drawings that conform to the art market protocols and commercial gallery requirements, many of his most acclaimed works challenge these systems.

Although Alan Sonfist produces sculptures, photographs, collages, and drawings that conform to the art market protocols and commercial gallery requirements, many of his most acclaimed works challenge these systems.

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Allan Kaprow

Kaprow coined the term ‘Happening’ to describe the ‘un-cuteystuff’ that took place on Segal’s farm.

Does George Segal’s chicken farm in South Brunswick, New Jersey in the 1960s deserve a place beside Athens in the 4th century B.C., Babylon in the 2nd century B.C., Rome in the 1st century, Teotehuacan in 3rd century, Florence in the 15th century, and Paris in the 1920s as a breeding ground for enduring, transformative cultural achievements?

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Ant Farm

Ant Farm’s artistic antics provide multiple entries into the history of art. 

a. Ant Farm’s artistic antics provide multiple entries into the history of art. For example, the group references Marcel Duchamp who coined the term ‘ready-made’ in 1915 to describe a work of art that consisted of a common object that had not been materially altered.

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Bonnie Sherk

When Bonnie Ora Sherk’s Crossroads Community (The Farm), she helped inaugurate as version of an age-old artistic practice in which artists emulate their surroundings instead of interpreting them or responding to them emotionally.

When Bonnie Ora Sherk’s Crossroads Community (The Farm), she helped inaugurate as version of an age-old artistic practice in which artists emulate their surroundings instead of interpreting them or responding to them emotionally.

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Carolee Schneemann

 

Carolee Schneemann was among the artists who introduced photographic quandaries by staging ephemeral events and performances instead of creating enduring art objects.

     

    Photography’s uneasy relationship with fine art was not resolved when the camera was accepted as an expressive tool that was as appropriate for art-making as a paint brush.

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    Frans Krajcberg

    Krajcberg set an independent course by rejecting the art mediums, creative processes, and themes that defined these vanguard movements.

    Krajcberg was born in Poland, moved to Russia after losing his family in the Holocaust. Then, in 1948, he moved to Brazil. Nonetheless, it is French art history that is featured in this assignment because that is where Krajcberg was introduced to modern art movements, and where he set an independent course by rejecting the art mediums, creative processes, and themes that defined these vanguard movements.

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    Friedensreich Hundertwasser

    One of Hundertwasser’s pet peeves was the omnipresence of straight lines that dominate the built environment in industrialized societies.

    One of Hundertwasser’s pet peeves was the omnipresence of straight lines that dominate the built environment in industrialized societies: “The straight line is godless and immoral. The straight line is not a creative line, it is a duplicating line, an imitating line.

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    Hans Haacke

    Systems function as a structural common denominator that allows Haacke to move seamlessly between projects that exclude human interventions and those that include them.

    Condensation Cube provides a poignant example of a work of art that change its form without human involvement. Haacke explains that this work of art is ruled by a system that does not depend upon the artist or any other human to function: “The system’s programme … is absolutely independent of the viewer’s mental participation.

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    Helen and Newton Harrison

    Helen and Newton Harrison became eligible for inclusion in this narrative when, early in their careers, they eliminated paint and canvas in order to include actual trees, real dirt, and living fish as their art mediums.

    Dissolving the relationship between ‘art’ and ‘artifice’ is a theme that courses through the chronicle of 20th and 21st century art.

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    Herbert Bayer

    Herbert Bayer’s ability to design an entire system that beautifies the landscape as it rectifies its erosion and flooding problems has earned a secure place within the annals of art history.

    Herbert Bayer’s ability to design an entire system that beautifies the landscape as it rectifies its erosion and flooding problems has earned a secure place within the annals of art history.

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    Joseph Beuys

    Joseph Beuys did not create art only to express the ‘self’. His goal was to empower ‘others’.

    a. Joseph Beuys did not create art only to express the ‘self’. His goal was to empower ‘others’. Activating others was a means of erasing rigid social hierarchies, distributing the power that was concentrated in the few, and establishing a dynamic society comprised of independent and creative artists-citizens.

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    Mario Merz

    Mario Merz may frustrate art historians whose expertise is measured according to their ability to identify an artist’s art historical genealogy.

    Mario Merz may frustrate art historians whose expertise is measured according to their ability to identify an artist’s art historical genealogy. On the one hand, significant aspects of Merz’s work are traceable to two movements that contributed to vanguard art in Europe in the first half of the 20th century: The material innovations he employed resemble Art Povera.

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    Mierle Laderman Ukeles

    Ukeles’s art elevates the role of ‘service’ over ‘creativity’ and ‘self-expression’.

    a. Directing attention away from parade horses to the sanmen who followed them encapsulates the uniqueness of Ukeles’ art practice. This artist is known for diverting attention away from the spectacle and focusing it upon the workers who were overlooked.

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