Anthropocenic: Art About the Natural World in the Human Era

October 26, 2018 – March 23, 2019

Geologists have been thinking about how the Holocene, the geological period that began after the end of the last ice age around 12,000 years ago, has been replaced by the Anthropocene. This potential new epoch is named for humans and is defined as one in which our impact on the world has been so acute that it is in the geologic evidence. A debate continues about this idea, and about the precise beginning date of a new era. Several dates and causes are often discussed as the beginning of the Anthropocene: 1610, the huge migrations of Europeans to the Americas, the germs they brought and death of 50,000,000 indigenous people and the change on the plant-life, carbon and atmosphere from this that is in geologic evidence in Antarctic cores; 1950, the peak of soot from high-temperature coal combustion worldwide due to the accelerating industrial revolution; and 1945 or 1964, years that are discernable by high levels of radioactive isotopes in rock layers due to fallout from nuclear testing. Regardless of whether one is ultimately chosen as the beginning of the Anthropocene, each provides rock solid evidence that humans have had environment-changing impact on the natural world. And we could also consider them collectively, because, after all, a few decades or centuries are negligible in The Geological Time Scale.

Anthropocenic: Art About the Natural World in the Human Era is a topical and compelling group exhibition by artists who make art about nature, the natural world, and our effect on and interrelation with it in the 21st century. The artists explore the relationship of humans to the world with widely varied conceptual strategies, artistic practices, and media. Some address the human impact on the natural world directly, while for others the relationship to the Anthropocene is more oblique. The exhibiting artists work in most media from painting and sculpture to video and infographics. Some of the strategies they employ include incorporating the sciences and other disciplines into their work; working with teams of artists, scientists, students, and others; and creating project-based works exploring the theme.

Dan Mills, Director, Museum of Art, and Lecturer in the Humanities

Programming Curators:
Jane Costlow, Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies
Anthony Shostak, Education Curator

Curatorial Assistant:
Emerson Krull ‘19