Breath(e): Toward Climate and Social Justice
10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Saturday, September 14 at 11:00 AM 6:00 PM
Ends Jan 5, 2025
Los Angeles, CA) —The Hammer Museum is pleased to announce Breath(e): Toward Climate and Social Justice, a groundbreaking exhibition that centers environmental art practices addressing the climate crisis and anthropogenic disasters, and their inescapable intersection with issues of equity and social justice. Part of Getty’s region-wide initiative PST ART: Art & Science Collide, Breath(e) is curated by artist Glenn Kaino and guest curator Mika Yoshitake and features more than 100 artworks by 25 international artists. The sprawling exhibition will fill the majority of the Hammer’s galleries and outdoor spaces, and includes specially commissioned works by Mel Chin, Ron Finley, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Garnett Puett, and Lan Tuazon. The exhibition will be on view at the Hammer from September 14, 2024, through January 5, 2025, and is presented in partnership with Conservation International. Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin said, “When I first began talking with Glenn Kaino and Mika Yoshitake about an exhibition that would respond to the climate crisis, it was 2020—at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial reckoning in the United States in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Both the metaphorical and the literal practice of breathing—the right to breathe—was at the top of our minds. Breath(e) poignantly and intelligently spotlights the work of artists who address the urgent concerns of climate and social justice.” Breath(e) spotlights 25 intergenerational and transdisciplinary artists whose practices encompass photography, multimedia, augmented reality, painting, living organisms, and more. The exhibition seeks to address the existential dangers posed by the climate crisis and to advocate for a nonhierarchical worldview influenced by ancestral indigenous knowledge, which envisions all elements of nature as one family rather than as materials for use and exploitation by humankind. A number of artists have created works commissioned specially for Breath(e): Multidisciplinary artist and enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold, Cannupa Hanska Luger’s site-specific, multi-part installation Sovereign relates to his ongoing Future Ancestral Technologies, which blends indigenous wisdom with science-fiction speculations. Garnett Puett, a sculptor and fourth-generation beekeeper, creates “Apisculptures” in collaboration with a bee colony. Puett has created a structure in which visitors may safely enter and witness the bees’ gradual creation of a sculpture Inspired by systems aesthetics, maintenance, and feminist ecological art of the 1960s, Filipino artist Lan Tuazon will present an outdoor installation made from five techniques of material invention using sculpture as a test-site of repair. Tuazon’s work considers how plastic waste operates within the circular economy and invites viewers to donate their own plastics to be shredded and made part of the installation. In this work, sustaining change can be a few acts that serve ecological beliefs. Environmental activist Ron Finley, also known as the “Gangsta Gardener,” will present a large-scale garden installation outside of the museum’s bookstore and galleries. Known for his commitment to making socially engaged conceptual art that addresses the most urgent issues of our time, Mel Chin’s project IOV (Interpretation of Vision, pronounced “eye of”) attempts to dismantle division and promote empathy, which he considers the first step in a collective undertaking to fight climate change and persistent social injustice. This multi-stage commission began with an open call for stories from people whose lives were changed by an extraordinary phenomenon, resulting in artworks derived not from the artist’s own vision, but instead honoring and elevating the experiences of the respondents. Some works in the exhibition illustrate what scholar Rob Nixon calls “slow violence,” disastrous governmental or corporate practices which may not immediately reveal their impact on communities or ecosystems. Artist and activist LaToya Ruby Frazier’s photo series Flint is Family depicts the water crisis that affected Flint, Michigan, a city predominantly comprised of Black and Brown communities. Scientist and artist Brandon Ballengée makes portraits of marine species that have been driven to extinction by human-caused disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, using the oil itself as his medium. Performance and installation artist Yangkura traces the migratory movement of trash and debris that originated in Southeast Asia and South Korea and washed ashore on Japan’s Tsushima Island—polluting their ultimate destination while leaving the originating waters clean. The artist creates “monsters” from the debris, who are trying to find their way back to their home. Vietnamese-American artist Tiffany Chung, herself a political and climate refugee, creates large-scale vernacular architectural models that consider forced migration and human displacement resulting from climate change—including projections that portions of Vietnam will be fully consumed by rising sea levels by 2050. The exhibition further questions anthropocentric realities that are at the crux of modern life and imagines alternate modes of agency. Some of these works incorporate cutting-edge technology, such as Mika Tajima’s New Humans II, which utilizes machine learning to activate an undulating pool of black magnetic liquid, whose movement is produced by patterns based on data sets sourced at a scale beyond human comprehension. Los Angeles-based artist Rob Reynolds has created a massive rendering of an iceberg—viewed via augmented reality—affixed to the side of the office tower which abuts the museum and was once the headquarters of Occidental Petroleum. The iceberg upon which the work is modeled at one time had a footprint roughly the size of Westwood Village, where the Hammer is located; it now no longer exists. Michael Joo, in collaboration with digital artist Danil Krivoruchko and, generated a collection of more than 10,000 NFTs modeled after the crystalline structure of coral reefs; the underlying algorithm was subsequently utilized by scientists at the University of Hawai’i to create 3D prints derived from calcite crystal formations, the basis of coral exoskeletons and reef structures, which they used to study the development of fish species reliant on coral reef habitats. In conjunction with Breath(e), the Hammer is piloting the international Bizot Green Guidelines, which provides expanded climate condition standards for gallery temperature and humidity based on recent conservation research. Adoption of these updated protocols will significantly reduce the Hammer’s HVAC energy use, the largest component of its carbon footprint. The Hammer will continue to apply these guidelines for future exhibitions. Breath(e) is presented in partnership with Conservation International, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability. Melanie Janin, Chief Communications & Marketing Officer at Conservation International, said, “Conservation International has a long history of partnering with organizations and unlikely allies such as the Hammer Museum for positive impact: taking risks that others deem too great; incubating ideas that others have not considered; and breaking down silos that others view as unavoidable. We are inspired by the courageous inquiry of the participating artists in Breath(e), and hopeful that audiences will be emboldened to conserve our planet through urgent action after experiencing this powerful exhibition at the Hammer.”
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