The Industrial Revolution marked a new chapter of history: New technologies were emerging, populations were burgeoning, and the looks ofÂ citiesÂ were changing. Although economies were blossoming and cities were bustling, the surge of industrialization gave rise to a modern phenomenon: pollution.Â From fascination to repulsion, let’s take a look at the artistic take on this topic.
As London began modernizing in the nineteenth century, the city grew at a rapid speed and pollution beganÂ creeping up in all facets ofÂ life.Â Claude Monet, a leading figure of the ImpressionistÂ movement, first visited London in 1870Â and painted various scenes of parks and the River Thames. Fascinated by the effects of fog his focus lied in depicting the atmospheric haze. Monet wrote, “I love London. It is a mass, an ensemble, and it is so simple…in London, what I love, above all, is the fog.”
Futurism celebrated all things technology and modernity: the metropolis was the Futurists’ haven.Â Their environment was one of war and technological advancements, which led artists to take a very violent, aggressive and forceful approach towards their work.Â To Boccioni, the steam from the trains and the exhaust from the automobiles were not threats to health nor to the environment, but symbols of movement and progress.
Sheeler, associated with Precisionism, drew upon Futurism and Cubism to capture the grandeur of American industrial life. The idyllic representation of the Ford Motor Company Plant near Detroit, is a celebration of industrialization’s creation ofÂ a new, lucrative American landscape. The lack of human presence in this image highlights technology’s supremacy in the modern environment.
Spiral JettyÂ â€”Â a 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide coil made from black basalt and earthÂ â€” was created by Smithson in a red-colored, polluted section of the Great Salt LakeÂ that had beenÂ cut off from fresh water supplies 1959.Â This site-specific work is part of Earthworks, a movementÂ linking art toÂ the landscape it is produced in. The dependence of the work on the surrounding environment parallels human dependence on nature andÂ highlights the importance of livingÂ withÂ the earth instead of forcing yourself upon it.
With 172 governments and 2,400 representatives of NGO’s in attendance, the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro was an unprecedented event in the history of UN conferences. The challenge at hand? How to stop the damage of our planet due to pollution and the overconsumptionÂ of finite natural resources.Â RobertÂ Rauschenberg was not only an artist but an environmentalist who believed that each living individual has a responsibility to protect mother nature. He created thisÂ work to raise awareness about the UN summit and to illustrateÂ the struggle to simultaneously accept what we have done to this planet andÂ toÂ hope for a better future.Â What are your favorite art works on this topic? Let us know in your comments!