Unreal Nature

October 8, 2016

We Brought Back Some Nature

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… landscape seems to have been relegated in the 1970s and 1980s to the domain of myth, history, and memory.

This is from the essay ‘The Withering Greenbelt: Aspects of Landscape in Twentieth-Century Painting’ by Robert Rosenblum found in Denatured Visions: Landscape and Culture in the Twentieth Century edited by Stuart Wrede and William Howard Adams (1991):

Recently we received at home what was meant to be a sort of botanical decoration. It was a very chic little black box, containing not a potted plant, but just a clipped row of beautiful green grass that looked like a time capsule from a Steven Spielberg movie. This was a very peculiar bit of science-fiction landscape in a New York apartment.

[line break added] On a similar note, our children are always coming back after what they call a nature walk in Washington Square, and they say, producing something like one pitiful autumn leaf, “We brought back some nature,” as if they were coming from another planet. These free associations will give some idea of how remote the topic of landscape in modern art seemed to me on first consideration.

[ … ]

… The feeling of growing remoteness, as if nature were not only an endangered species but practically extinct, emerges constantly in the sixties and seventies. I vividly remember seeing in 1969 an installation at The Museum of Modern Art by Robert Morris, who had magically preserved Japanese bonsai trees — strange mutants, it seemed, from another planet — in rectangular tanks, rather like that little box of grass I received. Related to this concept is Varese Window Room (1973), Robert Irwin’s installation in Count Panda di Biumo’s residence in Varese — a glimpse of greenery, equally remote and magical, as seen through the precision of a geometric cube.

The landscape of the present can also conjure up memories of our experience of the landscapes of the past.

… One of the most telling landscapes of that retrospective category is an Anselm Kiefer of 1974 that represents the Märkische Heide, near East Berlin, a site fraught with German cultural memories, not only of the early nineteenth-century Romantic pastorals as told by Theodor Fontane, but also of momentous and horrific military conflicts. It is a vision of scorched earth, an earth that may never be regenerated, and it is a picture that [ … ] tells a great deal about the way that landscape seems to have been relegated in the 1970s and 1980s to the domain of myth, history, and memory.

kiefer_marchheath
Anselm Kiefer, March Heath, 1974

My previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

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