With retail spaces across New York sitting empty due to pandemic-related business closures, the local non-profit EcoArt Project has announced a new initiative to fill these vacant storefronts with free popup exhibitions focusing on climate change and sustainability. Working with another New York non-profit, Chashama, to find the spaces, EcoArt Project launched the programme Rebound-NYC on 25 March with a solo show of works by Alex Nero near Bryant Park. The next, larger iteration runs from 15-27 April (coinciding with Earth Day on 22 April) near Union Square and will be the first group exhibition with work by five artists—Cicely Carew, Sam Nester, Hara Woltz, Stephen Mallon, and Peter Gerakaris—all centred on issues of environmentalism and climate change.
"We launched Rebound-NYC to contribute to the cultural reboot of the city," says EcoArt Project’s founder and executive director Pino Fortunato. "Our pop-up experiences leverage empty storefronts to foster the connections between the arts, design, technology and sustainability. EcoArt Project’s initiatives draw attention to the profound climate threat, furthering our mission to inspire respect for the environment."
The works in the exhibition Earth Day Experience 2021 explore the beauty and richness of nature, as well as the damaging impact of human activity, and range from vibrant paintings to harrowing photographs to site-specific sound and light installations. For example, Carew’s kaleidoscopic, vibrant prints and paintings depict rich, colourful flora in bright colors and gestural brushstrokes. Similarly joyful are Gerakaris’ paintings and sculptures of brightly-coloured birds and flowers, that are inspired by the artist’s experiences with endangered species on the island of St Lucia. Woltz’s mixed media collages on the other hand teeter between nature photography and surrealism, underscoring the fragility of nature and the interconnectivity of humans and other living organisms. In Emergency blanket for migrating butterflies (Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus) (2018), the shape of the crumpled blanket mirrors that of the butterfly’s wings, but the material makeup and the inevitable life-cycle of the two could not be more different.
The five artists selected (from a pool of over 330 applicants) each received a $3,000 prize as part of the programme, supported through a grant from The Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The jury for the exhibition was comprised of art, culture, and education figures, Gail Heidel, Gloria Porcella, Destinee Ross-Sutton, and Alicia Lubowski-Jahn.
"My hope is that the show encourages us to look at our human activities with a fresh outlook and to regard the world around us more attentively," says the exhibition’s curator Alicia Lubowski-Jahn, pointing at specific “environmental urgencies”—including the effects of climate change, ecological breakdown, biodiversity loss, and waste management. There is also a beauty in the artists' treatment of these subjects that offers up contradictions. Although these problems can’t be solved directly by art, this talented group of artists marking Earth Day 2021 pose questions for reflection on our community impact, personal sustainability commitments, and our experience of nature both far-flung and in New York City."
Rebound-NYC has plans to hold more New York-based popups and city-wide experiences in the coming year, as well as a collateral exhibition at the 2022 Venice Biennale.
• Earth Day Experience 2021, at 7 East 14th Street near Union Square, 15-27 April. For more information: ecoartproject.org/rebound-nyc