For decades, men have been paying increasingly more attention to the seriousness of men’s impacts on the environment. It is common to hear about global issues such as global warming, the greenhouse effect, or even to come across news about environmental disasters.

Governments, companies, and civil society have been tirelessly looking for sustainable development alternatives that will allow us to continue to evolve as a population while guaranteeing the survival of other species and the maintenance of natural resources.

One of the sustainable development process conclusions is the need for everyone, in their different areas and with their own tools, to do their part to build a better world.

That’s when, in the 1960s, a crucial group of artists started the Environmental Art movement, which from its different artistic styles, has, until today, reinforced the power of using art as a tool for social transformation.

Art as an instrument of social action 

Much is still discussed about the concept and functions of art. As it is a very subjective area, art does not always allow us to reach very concrete conclusions.

Though it’s crucial noting that, although in many moments, art may have been focused on aesthetic aspects and used as a decorative element, it has also played a significant role throughout history in alerting humanity to relevant issues and even presenting possible solutions for these problems.

Often we see art being used as an educational tool, assisting the interdisciplinary learning process, as an alternative to changing the reality of marginalized communities from cultural intervention projects, or as an effective alternative in therapeutic treatments.

This same transformative power is perceived in the connection between art and the environment. Let's explore a little more the result of the relationship between these two areas?

Explore the different Environmental Art movements  

Now it's time to explore! In the list below, we present some of the most interesting artistic movements arising from the connection between art and nature.

Pay close attention to how they use different artistic expressions, materials, tools, and exposure methods to send a message of connection with nature or solve environmental problems.

Here we go!

Eco-art or Sustainable Art

Ecological art is a genre that combines elements of Environmental Art and Contemporary Art and proposes artistic activity in response to the global ecological crisis. Since its origin in the 60s, this movement combines aesthetics, information, and education to promote environmental awareness and community involvement in the restoration of nature.

Ecological art is expressed in various artistic methods, such as sculptures, paintings, photographs, videos, and environmental installations. These artists experiment with eco-friendly materials and techniques to present a philosophical perspective and sensitize society about the importance of the rational use of natural resources and human damage to the environment.

From this purpose of using art not only for aesthetic reasons but as a tool for social transformation, it is also possible that Eco-art works, besides promoting awareness, also play an active role in the restoration of damaged environments.

A very famous example of Eco-art is Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who creates several art pieces from garbage. His work gained even more visibility with the release of the documentary Waste Land, which shows how Muniz, through his art, managed to positively impact the community that worked in a landfill in Rio de Janeiro.

Other essential names of Eco-art are artists such as Frans Krajcberg and Roderick Romero. Frans Krajcberg is famous for his sculptures with calcined trees collected from places that suffered from burning and deforestation. Roderick Romero, inspired by nature, builds treehouses from scrap or recycled materials, as in the “Lantern House.”

Land art or Earth Art

Land Art is an artistic movement that uses the environment, spaces, and natural resources to carry out its works. It can be considered a decisive step of art towards the external world, using nature as raw material and artistic space.

Land Art artists carry out large-scale interventions, tracing immense lines over the land, stacking stones, digging holes in areas such as remote locations, plantations, rocks, and deserts.

Usually, these interventions are ephemeral, ceasing to exist naturally. So, the artists record the process and results through videos and photographs for future exhibitions. 

This artistic current emerged in the 1960s as part of the conceptual art trend. Its origin is also related to other artistic movements such as Minimalism, Art Povera, and Ecological Art.

The relationship with minimalism results from the idea that art must exist independently, without subjectivism, valuing the process and the work done with natural materials and spaces. Minimalism also dictated the tendency to use simple forms in painting and mainly in sculptures, reacting contractually to the time’s expressionist values.

From Art Povera and Ecological Art, Land Art inherited the use of unconventionally artistic materials such as stones, earth, plants, and recyclable waste. In these artistic movements, the use of this type of material criticizes the collectible character of art.

But although Land Art takes elements of these other artistic movements for itself, it is important to clarify that its essence is to propose a new relationship between art and space, environment, spectator, society. It rejects museums and galleries’ system and uses the areas not only as a backdrop for the work but as part of it.

Some important names and works of Land Art are the North American sculptors and experimental artists Robert Smithson and his 1970 work "Spiral Jetty,” Michael Heizer and the 1969 work "Double Negative" and Walter de Maria and his work "The Lightning Field,” developed and carried out between 1974 and 1977.

Art in nature

Similar to Land Art, Art in nature has an even more ephemeral character. Considered an aspect of Land Art, this artistic production also has its place displaced to nature.

This type of work is built with organic materials found in the environment, rearranged into geometric shapes. These beautiful sculptures are usually made with leaves, flowers, branches, sand, stones, etc. Materials are generally stacked or arranged on the floor, without the use of glues or other tools.

The focus is usually on creating objects or subtle changes in the landscape, highlighting geographical features or exploring the materials’ natural shapes.

Artists who produce works in this style usually have a strong reverence for nature preservation and a desire to create a minimal environmental impact on their work production.

Documentation plays a central role in this type of work. Like Land Art, this type of work can only be exposed outside the natural environment through photographs. Some artists even claim that they return the objects to their original location after the documentation.

British artist and activist Andy Goldsworthy has produced several famous pieces of Art in nature. Records of his artwork, built from the combination of elements such as leaves, stones, and even ice or sticks floating on puddles, can be found in museums such as the National Gallery of Art and the San Francisco Modern of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Conclusion  

The study of art is often based on its segmentation in different artistic movements. This division is usually made from criteria such as techniques, materials, and main inspirations for the artists and pieces.

However, it is even more relevant to think of these artistic movements as societies’ responses to cultural, economic, and political issues from their historical periods. So we can clearly see art’s purpose of documenting events and impacting the world around us.

Here you can find a series of fascinating timelines to understand how each of these artistic movements is related to the events of their time. Let's check them out?