Introducing the Collections 4

The Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges include environmental art such as

Alan Sonfist (1946-)
View of Manhattan; Time Landscapes, 1980
Lithograph, photo-collage and hand coloring, 72 x 72 cm.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84
hws-s-64/75

Alan Sonfist is a New York City based United States artist most often associated with the Land or Earth Art movement. He is best known for his “Time Landscape” found on the corner of West Houston Street and LaGuardia Place in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Proposed in 1965, “Time Landscape” was not realized until 1978 under Mayor Ed Koch. It was eventually landmarked by the city. It has often been cited as the first urban earthwork of its kind. More recently, Sonfist has continued to create artworks within the natural landscape, inaugurating a one acre (4,000 m²) landscape project titled “The Lost Falcon of Westphalia” on Prince Richard’s estate outside Cologne, Germany in 2005.

Considered a pioneer of public, green art that celebrates our links to the land, to permaculture, Alan Sonfist is an artist who has sought to bridge the great gap between humanity and nature by making us aware of the ancient, historic and contemporary nature, geology, landforms and living species that are part of “living history”. With a reawakening of public awareness of environmental issues and of a need to regenerate our living planet Sonfist brings a much needed awareness of nature’s parallel and often unrecorded history and present in contemporary life and art. As early as 1965 Sonfist advocated the building of monuments dedicated to the history of unpolluted air, and suggested the migration of animals should be reported as public events. Alan Sonfist, Alan Sonfist, “Time Landscape of New York City”, outdoor installation, 1965- present. In an essay published in 1968 titled Natural Phenomena as Public Monuments, Sonfist emancipated public art from focussing exclusively on human history stating: “As in war monuments that record the life and death of soldiers, the life and death of natural phenomena such as rivers, springs, and natural outcroppings need to be remembered. Public art can be a reminder that the city was once a forest or a marsh.” Alan Sonfist continues to advocate, in his urban and rural artworks, projects that heighten our awareness of the historical geology or terrain of a place, earth cores become a symbol of the deeper history or geology of the land. His art emphasizes the layered and complex intertwining of human and natural history. He has bequeathed his body as an artwork to the Museum of Modern Art. Its decay is seen as an ongoing part of the natural life cycle process.

Time Landscape (1965-1978-Present) is an artwork by the American artist Alan Sonfist (1946- ). It consists of plants that were native to this area in pre-colonial times. These planted were replanted here until 1978, on a rectangular plot of 25′ x 40′ situated in lower Manhattan at the northeast corner of La Guardia Place and West Houston Street.

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