Arizona Art Museum Seeks to Define Sustainability


Carrie Marrill, Be Realistic Demand the Impossible, 22x30 gouache on paper, 2009, part of the exhibition Nowhere to Hide at ASU Art Museum, Oct. 2009. Photo courtesy of the artist.

From a painter's satirical take on 1950s images of a bucolic world to functional recycled mega-sculptures to a major public-works design competition, the Arizona State University Art Museum is tackling environmental issues from all angles with its fall exhibition theme, Defining Sustainability."Each exhibition or project tells a simple story -- an artist's proposal for green transportation or a designer's solution for recycled shade structures -- which together convey the complexity of sustaining life on earth," museum spokeswoman Diane Wallace writes in the press release announcing the exhibit, which had its opening reception on Friday. With its diverse collection of projects, the ASU Art Museum hopes to engage the greater Phoenix community in conversations about environmental, social, and cultural sustainability.

Where the Museum and the 'Real World' Meet
"Today's art museum is a pristine, controlled environment, keeping the landscape, with all its environmental systems, hazards and problems, at bay," Wallace continues. "The ASU Art Museum strives to forge a new model for the university art museum as an interdisciplinary lab to explore real-world issues through the lens of the creative process."


Shade structures made by ASU architecture faculty member Jason Griffiths, who is leading the Political Ply project at ASU Art Museum. Photo courtesy Jason Griffiths.

In the galleries, visitors will find Richard Lerman's Grain Series sound installation of cereal boxes equipped with speakers and screens to play natural sounds and videos. Nearby, Carrie Marill's Visual Aides series of paintings replicates old classroom posters showing different domestic, agricultural, industrial, and maritime landscapes -- updated with factories and protesters and recycling bins to show "what's evolved and devolved environmentally and socially since the 1950s."

Indigenous Artists Honor Sustainable Traditions
The Indigenous artists in the Postcommodity collective made an even more radical intervention, cutting a square hole in the gallery floor, "exposing the earth beneath the institution, and displaying the block of removed concrete, standing upright, on a pedestal." Write the artists: "The block of concrete -- the foundation of the university -- functions as a trophy celebrating Indigenous intervention in opposition to a Western scientific worldview, honoring Indigenous knowledge of sustainability within a geographic and ecological system."


Jarbas Lopes, Ciclovia aerea, 2006, oisier or natural fiber vine over bicycle, 42x72x20.5 in., museum purchase with funds from Herbert H. and Barbara C. Dow Foundation.

Outside the museum, in the sculpture courts, architecture faculty and students have used recycled political posters to create large, colorful shade structures to provide respite from the scorching sun. And in the entryway, urban-design teams will present their ideas for redesigning Phoenix's 181 miles of canals -- more than found in Venice and Amsterdam combined.

A Canalscape for Phoenix
The project, dubbed Canalscape, "proposes the creation of vital urban hubs where canals meet major streets. This mixed-use 'urban infill' would provide highly desirable places to gather by the water, as well as an alternative to sprawl. Unlike Amsterdam and Venice, much smaller cities with urbanized canals throughout, Phoenix's trademark would be distributed canalscape, reflecting its unique quality of being a 'network' city as well as a region that creatively intersperses urban living into a breathtaking desert landscape."

The Canalscape for Metro Phoenix installation and exhibition will be on view from Nov. 7 to Dec. 1. Other parts of Defining Sustainability are already on display and will close between Nov. 28 and Feb. 20, 2010.

More on museums and the environment:
Giant Whale Made of Felt Beached at Museum
Outdoor "Tree Museum" Celebrates a Community Centennial--and Trees
Chinese History Museum Literally Recycled From History
Garden Museum is Renamed and Re-done
The American Museum of Natural History Tackles Climate Change
Green Science Museum Opens in San Francisco: Living, Blooming Design Has the City in Awe

Tags: Arizona | Artists | Arts | Deserts | Exhibits

2014 Gift Guide

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK