Can Climate Change Art Make the World Face Our Environmental Crisis?

Reinventing himself professionally was not easy. Comte was so established as a photographer that he had to submit his work anonymously to museums to help it get accepted. It worked. His first major installation, Light, was at the MAXXI Museum of Modern Art in Rome, in 2017. It was an homage to glacial landscapes in Switzerland, the Himalayas, Canada, Africa, and Norway through large sculptures, photos, video installations, projections, and even mini ice mountains melting away in the gallery. Then came Black Light, White Light, in Milan, in which he created Glacier Lake, a reflecting pool filled with crinkled silver thermal blankets resembling ice chunks. A subsequent, more ambitious project used those blankets to cover and protect real glaciers in summer. It was the beginning of an ongoing shift from museum work to getting his art—and his viewers—out into the wild, where they can do something.

“The only way we can make change is to get actively involved,” says Comte. “Then you really start seeing what is happening.”

environmental art from Alexis Rockman
Courtesy of collection of Jonathan O’Hara

Alexis Rockman

A Surreal Take on Human Influences

“THERE IS NOTHING more compelling and alarming than human history and how it has affected the rest of life on Earth,” says New York painter Alexis Rockman, whose work has been focused on environmental change since 1995. “Geology, human engineering, and disease have all had a hand in our evolution as a species and shaped our world.” His recent touring exhibition, The Great Lakes Cycle, dramatizes how the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the Earth’s surface fresh water, are being impacted by human activity. Forces of Change, for example (above), is a composite of significant places and people from Great Lakes history, from the Niagara River to the invasive tree of heaven. “The great disrupter, E. coli, is presented as a tentacled, monstrous kraken that bursts from the river’s bottom,” says Rockman. “It alludes to the powerful forces that often seem invisible to us.”

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