This exhibition is guest curated by Andi Campognone of Andi Campognone Projects.
Landscape is a timeless motif first made popular by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Landscape provided an important background for religious and figural paintings up through the 15th century, as the recent Los Angeles County Museum exhibition "Pompeii and the Roman Villa" demonstrated. Dutch painters popularized landscape as a subject in the 16th and 17th centuries but it was not fully accepted as an independent genre until late into the 1700s. As painting techniques changed during the Industrial Revolution, so did landscape painting; it became less a realistic record and more a spiritual, optical, or formal re-interpretation. Today, landscape painting is a means for artists to express their fears and concerns about our increasingly stressed environment. The painting, sculpture and installation work in Edenistic Divergence addresses the anticipated changes in our landscape as a result of pollution, global warming and genetic tinkering. The artists of Edenistic Divergence have used the contemporary language of color and material to voice their thinking. Within the context of this exhibit, the landscape has become both subject and background for a symbolic re-creation of Eden.
Greco-Roman courtyards of the 1st century were adorned with elaborately painted landscapes. These outdoor rooms, which served as places of leisure and contemplation, were often decorated with animals, especially birds. In similar fashion, Lisa Adams creates realistic portrayals of birds and small animals in fantasy landscapes of their own. Adams even references a volcano in her painting, Convocation, bringing to mind the Vesuvian eruption that buried Pompeii. Adams' paintings capture the past while visualizing the future. Beyond the suggestion of sky and weather, the scale of the paintings brings the eye into the two-dimensional landscape as if it was three-dimensional - a suggestion of the trompe-l'oeil the ancients admired so much. Adams' art gets an optimistic charge from its colorful palette and playful placement of subjects, but lends itself to serious contemplation -perhaps of "life after man.”
Impressionist landscape painting (of the late 19th and early 20th centuries) was characterized by visible brush strokes, open composition, and an emphasis on light in its changing qualities, indicating a passage of time (as seen in Monet's famous Waterlilies). Kimber Berry’s work is largely abstract, though it addresses some of the same issues as found in Monet's paintings, including the employment of unusual vantages and movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience. Paint appears to flow from up and over the wall in a massive waterfall of color. Pigment is in constant movement. The artificial palette, hardly the color of life-giving water, captures our attention with its vibrancy and then reminds us of its toxicity.
Hollis Cooper's work reflects these same characteristics in a more conceptual way. Also manifesting the passage of time and employing unusual angles, Cooper's acrylic vine grows and changes along the length of the gallery. This futuristic vine also boasts a cautionary palette, and appears at times to be almost mechanical.
Many artists are concerned with and speaking out about contemporary environmental issues including acid rain, chemically treated soil and plants, and the consequences of genetically altered fruits and vegetables. These factors, and especially the constant worry they cause, take form in Rebecca Niederlander's wire cloud installation. Constructed of heavy metal, the dense, intricate structure hovers like an ethereal black cloud over the exhibit.
The word "landscape" comes from the Dutch landschap, which means sheaf, or a patch of cultivated ground. Edenistic Divergence symbolically and literally represents a patch of ground cultivated with important traditional elements of landscape art, including sky, weather, flora and fauna. With more than an incidental nod to art history, the four artists in Edenistic Divergence cultivate their ground into compelling interpretations of the land, past, present and future.
-Text by Andi Campognone