beyond earth art: contemporary artists and the environment

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University

January 25–June 8, 2014

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University presents beyond earth art: contemporary artists and the environment, on view now through June 8, comprising separate installations and exhibitions throughout the museum. The project was curated by Andrea Inselmann, curator of modern and contemporary art & photography at the Johnson Museum.

Artist talks and symposium: April 10–11

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Hours: Tuesdays–Sundays 10am–5pm

On Thursday, April 10 at 5:15pm in Milstein Hall Auditorium, Maya Lin will discuss her work, including her recent sculptures and the installation Empty Room, on view in beyond earth artLucy Orta will give a gallery talk during the subsequent reception at the Johnson, from 6:30 to 7:30pm.

On Friday, April 11, the Johnson will host a daylong beyond earth art symposium funded by Cornell’s Atkinson Forum in American Studies Program, with presentations by Suzaan Boettger, art historian/critic;William L. Fox, director of the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art; Amy Lipton, co-director of ecoartspace; and artists Christian Houge and Lucy Orta. Registration is free but seating is limited; email or call +1 607 254 4642 to reserve a space by April 4.

In 1969 the legendary Earth Art exhibition took place at Cornell. Curated by Willoughby Sharp (1936–2008), site-specific installations by a number of international artists were scattered around campus and the surrounding Ithaca area. The commissioned pieces sought to eschew the commodity status of the art object and to question the role of institutions. The dissolution of boundaries in art—between object and context, different mediums, and the work of art and its documentation—was a hallmark of the time, reflecting 1960s counterculture more broadly. It is at this intersection—where art meets life and art becomes activism—that the influence of the 1960s earth artists has had the most significant impact on a current generation of artists working on issues related to ecology.

“The installations and exhibitions included in beyond earth art operate in the gap between the objectivity of scientific data and the subjectivity of creative expression, signaling the interconnectedness of themes that address issues related to the representation of landscape, water supply, food justice, recycling, fair distribution of natural resources, and the nature/culture divide,” said curator Andrea Inselmann.

The exhibition Food-Water-Life/Lucy+Jorge Orta, curated by c2 | curatorsquared and organized by the Tufts University Art Gallery, is on view as part of the beyond earth art project. The first comprehensive exhibition of work by Lucy + Jorge Orta in the United States, their sculptures, drawings, installations, and video explore major concerns that define this century—biodiversity, environmental conditions, climate change, and exchange among peoples.

Materials related to the 1969 Earth Art exhibition are on view alongside works from the Johnson’s collection by some of the Earth Art artists and others working in a similar mode in the 1970s and ’80s. The Johnson has made the complete 1969 exhibition catalogue, long out of print, available online at

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
The Johnson Museum has a permanent collection of more than 35,000 works of art from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. The museum building was designed by I. M. Pei and opened in 1973, funded by Cornell alumnus Herbert F. Johnson, late president and chairman of S C Johnson.

By Lena Felde

Lena is the Treasurer of Cultura21 Germany. She is studying Cultural Sciences (Mag. Art.) at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany.