A recent post from the shrewd people at 01 reminded us about the work of Agnes Denes, the eco-focused artist who has consistently blazed trails in environmental art throughout her career. Denes's monumental earthworks and exquisite drawings investigate the troubled relationship between Earth and humanity.
One of Denes's most iconic works, 1982's 'Wheatfield — A Confrontation' — probably one of the best-known projects in the field of land art — involved planting a two-acre wheat field in Battery Park landfill in New York City. The act of transplanting rural nature into the heart of urban Manhattan offered a powerful comment on "human values and misplaced priorities."
In 1996, Denes traveled to Finland and, with the help of volunteers from all over the world, created 'Tree Mountain — A Living Time Capsule,' a massive earthwork and reclamation project. The environmental intervention involved the construction of a “mountain” on the site of an old gravel quarry and the planting of 11,000 Finnish Pine trees in a mathematical pattern.
"The forest is patterned but spills over its boundaries in time as in space and concept," wrote Denes in an essay on the project. "It means re-establishing disturbed and destroyed land, creating roots to hold eroding land and keeping global warming down, photo synthesis up, clean ground water and a million things trees do besides grow and become aesthetics."
Other Denes projects have included a 1998 reforestation of an endangered tree species in Australia, planting crops in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, and exhibitions of mathematically inspired drawings, book projects and installations in major museums worldwide.
While her prolific output has slowed over the past decade, Agnes Denes has shown throughout her career the role art can play in shifting attitudes towards our natural environment.