Time Landscape. Alan Sonfist and the Birth of Land Art.

18 December 2014 - 5 February 2015

Alan Sonfist (New York, 1946–) is regarded by art historians as the greatest living exponent of the movement known as land art, earth art, or environmental art. Alongside Robert Smithson, Walter de Maria, Michael Heizer and James Turrell, he was among the first artists whose works derived their themes, and the media used to execute them, directly from nature. Sonfist designed his Time Landscape for Manhattan, in the heart of New York, in 1965, and it was officially unveiled in 1978, the first work of land art in a public space. This sealed the American artist’s fame. By rehabilitating the vegetation that grew there before the arrival of modern-day settlers, the artificially planted “pre-colonial forest” shows the indigenous flora of the metropolis. Sonfist was attempting to recreate the environment inherited from native Americans by Dutch colonists who reached the peninsula at the start of the seventeenth century. This emblematic work of art is celebrating its fiftieth birthday in 2015, and the exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest is the first to commemorate this momentous anniversary.

Alan Sonfist’s art can be interpreted as a kind of “ecological archaeology”. In his works, he deals with the history of a given place, the question of the memory preserved in it, and the dialogue between the present and the past. In his landscape-designed environments, which function as time capsules, in his performances and social interventions, and in the natural requisites that he re-contextualises in exhibition halls, Sonfist strives to convey a symbolic message which, he hopes, will enable future generations to restore the natural microclimate of their habitat.

Alan Sonfist’s art has lost none of its relevance even after half a century. His works offer a foothold from which to answer some increasingly urgent questions, such as how to resolve the ethical tasks inherent in restoring the harmony between natura naturans (nature creating) and natura naturata (nature already created), or the problem of assuming social responsibility towards our environment.

Works by the artist can be found in the collections of some of the most important global museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) and the Whitney Museum, all in New York, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Princeton University Museum and the Ludwig Museum, Aachen.

This dossier exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest is the artist’s first solo show in the central and eastern European region.

 

Márton Orosz, PhD 
curator of the exhibition