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Gene Bank of the Trees of New York City Alan Sonfist


Alan Sonfist The Bronx, New York City 1946 –

Date 1974
Object type photograph
Medium, technique silver gelatin print

20.3 × 25.4 cm

Inventory number FM.2015.1.1
Collection Department of Art after 1800
On view This artwork is on view at the permanent exhibition

The American artist Alan Sonfist represents the movement that rejects the conventional institutional system of art. This movement is known variously as earth art, land art, or environmental art. The works he has produced since the mid-1960s belong to the most contemplative strain of nature art. Unlike some of his associates, he does not shift masses of earth with bulldozers to create monumental geological formations that stick out from their surroundings. His works place more of their focus on ethical questions. His objective is not simply to leave a memento for future generations to form an image of the environment where their ancestors grew up, but to bequeath them a means with which they can restore the natural microclimate of their living space. The photos he took of old-growth hemlock trees in the Bronx in north-east New York City and the glass containers of the spores of different floral species he found in the forest are the products of the artist’s own “ecological archaeology”. They are time capsules containing the past history of the environment, yet through their intended function, they also preserve for posterity our present-day connection to our habitat.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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