Exploring The State of Nature

The Storefront for Art and Architecture explored the human relationship with nature through an ecology-themed series in the 1990s.

By Storefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Formalhaut (1990-03) by Ottmar HörlStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Exhibition Series

As questions concerning human's relationship with nature took on a surging urgency in the early 1990s, The Storefront for Art and Architecture embarked on a series of ecology-themed exhibitions. The series includes the following shows: 1. Earth, Air, and Water Studies, 1989; 2. Formalhaut, 1990; 3. Post-Consumerism, 1990; 4. Degrees of Paradise: The State of Heaven, 1991; 5. Formations of Erasure: Earthworks and Entropy, 2001.

Earth Air and Water Studies, Battery Park Landfill Fragments (1989-09) by Sandy GellisStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

1. Earth, Air and Water Studies, 1989

The exhibition reveals bonds that may be overlooked—between the city and the air, earth, and water, or between the untended rural landscape and human memory or projection.

Earth Air Water Study, Installation View (1989-09) by Sandy GellisStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Earth, Air and Water Studies presented Sandy Gellis' large-scale drawings, photo studies, and models of public and private projects.
The works in the exhibition see the city, the suburb, and the countryside as a wholistic system in constant evolution.

Earth, Air and Water Studies presented Sandy Gellis' large-scale drawings, photo studies, and models of public and private projects.
The works in the exhibition see the city, the suburb, and the countryside as a wholistic system in constant evolution.

Rain Channels
Scale: 1 inch = 4 feet
36 inches X 36 inches X 9 inches
Sand, glass, wax and shale.

Earth, Air and Water Studies presented Sandy Gellis' large-scale drawings, photo studies, and models of public and private projects.
The works in the exhibition see the city, the suburb, and the countryside as a wholistic system in constant evolution.

NYC Rainfall: 1987
124 brass plates, 12 months=horizontal, 365 days=vertical
The pattern shows the amount and intensity of that days precipitation.

Earth Air and Water Studies (1989-09) by Sandy GellisStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Careful documentation, sampling, and consistent display are relevant in other works of Gellis as well.

Earth Air and Water Studies (1989-09)Storefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Formalhaut, Installation View (1990-03) by Ottmar HörlStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

2. Formalhaut, 1990

Formalhaut is a West German team comprised of architects Gabriela Seifert, Götz Stöckmann, and artist Ottmar Hörlat. Through constructions, the team was seeking to challenge the presuppositions of the built environment.

Formalhaut, Installation View (1990-03) by Ottmar HörlStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

“As the cows climb into the dismembered caravan that is itself a book of rules for dismembering a city that is made of shifting alleys seen through a translucent landed space-vehicle that ... what?... did I hear right?... calls itself a museum? Things are getting interesting down at Formalhaut.” - Peter Cook. Excerpted from “Formalhaut,” STROLL No. 6/7

Formalhaut (1990-03) by Ottmar HörlStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Artworks at left are from Cow Project, 1985 and works from Dou­ble Knight Game, 1989 are on the right.

Formalhaut, Installation View (1990-03) by Ottmar HörlStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

The exhibition features an installation of 100 toy robots that “performed” during the opening.

Formalhaut, Installation View (1990-03) by Ottmar HörlStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

The exhibition features an installation of 100 toy robots that “performed” during the opening.

Post-Consumerism, Installation View. (1990-04) by Storefront for Art and ArchitectureStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

3. Post-Consumerism, 1990

In 1986, the Art Commission of the city of New York forged a partnership between the Public Art Fund and the 14th Street-Union Square Local Development Corporation in an attempt to solicit new design proposals for the city’s newsstands through a competition. 

Post-Consumerism, Installation View (1990-04) by Storefront for Art and ArchitectureStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Three proposals were selected and exhibited at Storefront as Part I of Post-Consumerism.

Post-Consumerism Installation (1990-04) by Storefront for Art and ArchitectureStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Part II, Designs and Ideas for the Waste Stream, exhibited ten proposals for managing garbage, or the urban ‘waste stream’, and its distribution through public spaces.

Degrees of Paradise, Installation View (1991-09) by Mel ChinStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

4. Degrees of Paradise: The State of Heaven, 1991

The exhibition featured artist Mel Chin's work. Throughout the exhibition, the rug was destroyed or repaired in response to the condition of the ozone layer. 

Degrees of Paradise, Hand-Knotted Carpets. (1991-09) by Mel ChinStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Hand-knotted wool, dyed from Damlacik, Turkey. Storefront co-director Shirin Neshat at the back. The carpets serves as a symbolic and sacrificial sky. Approximate size: 8'9'' X 24'

Degrees of Paradise, Collage Drawing. (1991-09)Storefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Degrees of Paradise, Turkish Weavers at work on Test Carpet. (1991-09) by George JevremovicStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Degrees of Paradise, Installation Process. (1991-09)Storefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Degrees of Paradise, Installation Process With Artist Mel Chin (1991-09)Storefront for Art and Architecture Archive

"The dreamers are better, not so geometrical, so apt to turn everything ... the air, the sky, to Persian rugs." - Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Degrees of Paradise, Exhibition Plan (1991-09)Storefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Two triangular spaces were created within the gallery space to accommodate Mel Chin’s installation The State of Heaven.

In the eastern part of the gallery, a canopy of suspended monitors play images of dynamic meteorological conditions generated in real-time via a fractal program.

In the eastern part of the gallery, a canopy of suspended monitors play images of dynamic meteorological conditions generated in real-time via a fractal program.

Degrees of Paradise, Storefront Crew. (1991-09)Storefront for Art and Architecture Archive

Degrees of Paradise, Installation View (1991-03) by Mel ChinStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

To read more about the show from the artist's website, see here.

Formations of Erasure, Installation View (2001-04) by Center for Land Use InterpretationStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

5. Formations of Erasure: Earthworks and Entropy, 2001

The show is a contemporary photographic display about the interaction of earthworks with the sculpting forces of erosion. The exhibit features a selection of earthworks, represented in large coloraturas photographic prints, where the earthworks have been transformed by natural and human erosion to become a new kind of landform - a formation that blends the intentionality of the artist’s hand with the subsequent “entropic” forces of decay. The exhibition included documentation of works by Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, William Bennett, and James Pierce. 

Formations of Erasure, Installation View (2001-04) by Center for Land Use InterpretationStorefront for Art and Architecture Archive

These works focused on those that do not have extensive maintenance programs and thus have been altered by time and the elements. Most of the depicted pieces were constructed in the 1970s and, over time, these structures had receded from the pure, intentional form of the artist’s idea, into a new dynamic form that represents a collaboration between humans and the non-human world.

Credits: Story

For more information about the mentioned shows in this exhibition please visit:

- Earth, Air and Water Studies (1989 )
- Formalhaut (1990)
- Post-Consumerism(1990)
- Degrees of Paradise: The State of Heaven (1991)
- Formations of Erasure: Earthworks and Entropy (2001)

This Google Arts and Culture exhibit is curated by Yujia Bian.

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Credits: All media
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