Spring 2006

ARTS 623
Earthworks, Environmental Sculpture, and Eco-Art, 1965-Present


01/23/2006 - 05/06/2006
Wednesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Zilkha Gallery 106

This course studies environmental art since 1965, from the early large-scale land art projects in the American West to the current proliferation of ecologically motivated art works throughout the world. According to the artist Robert Irwin, environmental art at one extreme includes works that engage so deeply with an environment's form and meaning that artwork and place become inseparable, and at the other end includes self-contained outdoor works that could be installed almost anywhere. Within Irwin's framework, eco-art represents environmental art?s most radically contextual form, attempting to engage us directly in ecological and socio-political interventions. At its core is the urgent concern to repair the world and to effect real change on both a grassroots level and within official systems of power. Such artistic engagement has increasingly come to mean working in large, multi-disciplinary teams that bring artists together with ecologists, engineers, landscape architects, urban planners, and experts in many other disciplines.

In this course, we will start out with an historical overview of environmental art from Altamira to Hiroshima and then focus on its development in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere around the world from the post-WWII era to the present. We will explore a variety of art works included under the umbrella of environmental art such as earthworks, land art, environmental sculpture, ecological art, recycling art, reclamation art, trans-species art, habitat architecture and artful trash management projects. Some critics have questioned what the difference is between eco-art and other interventions that are concerned with environment or ecology. We will inquire into what makes a work count as an art work, and how the works we are studying fit within and enhance the scope of art. We will explore how art historians analyze these questions and we will make two field trips during the term in order to experience environmental art works directly and discuss their provocative questions.

Sources of study include John Beardsley, Earthworks and Beyond; Jeffrey Kastner and Brian Wallis, Land and Environmental Art; Sue Spaid, Ecovention: Current Art to Transform Ecologies; Barbara Matilsky, Fragile Ecologies; Lucy Lippard, Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory, and The Lure of the Local; various supplementary texts, and other media.

Students will be responsible for three short essays and a final research paper.

In advance of the first meeting, students should read all of Lucy Lippard's Overlay: Contemporary Art and the Art of Prehistory, and should read pages 1-16 of Sue Spaid's Ecovention, and bring both books to class.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course syllabus

Michael Pestel (BA Hartwick College; MFA Otis Art Institute) is an installation artist who has given more than 17 solo and 53 group exhibitions of sculpture, soundscape, and sitework over the past 18 years. His work and biography are viewable on his website.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Jeffrey Kastner & Brian Wallis, LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL ART (Phaidon Press), Paperback

Lucy Lippard, OVERLAY (Pantheon Books), Paperback

Sue Spaid, ECOVENTION (Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center), Paperback


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