CI Jack and Shanaz Langson Institute and Museum of California Art (Langson IMCA in Irvine) is presenting “Indefinitely Wild: Preserving California’s Natural Resources,” an exhibition exploring how the early history of environmental preservation and conservation of the state’s natural resources can be considered relative to the work of artists of the same period.
In the exhibition, guest curator Cassandra Coblentz juxtaposes turn-of-the-century landscape paintings of the state’s natural resources with historical materials and photographs of human activities that depleted or commodified California’s natural bounty.
The selected works demonstrate how the featured artists considered humans’ relationships to nature alongside the impacts of industrialization and California’s population boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Coblentz said, “The exhibition’s title ‘Indefinitely Wild’ draws on a quote by Henry David Thoreau, who writes of the ‘tonic’ of ‘unfathomable’ wild spaces, such as those depicted in the exhibited works. As presented here, they offer viewers an opportunity to consider landscape paintings in Langson IMCA‘s collection from a fresh perspective. My hope is that by reflecting on these works in the context of the history of conservation and preservation as well as the industrial development of our state, viewers will have a more nuanced understanding of the persistent need for protection and care of California’s natural environment and its wild spaces.”
A range of ephemera complements the paintings and documents the state’s early industrialization alongside the development of environmental preservation and conservation practices. This ephemera includes both original and reproduced archival photography, newspaper clippings, advertisements, and other materials sourced from the Special Collections and Archives of UCI Libraries, among other institutions.
The exhibition is organized into five sections that explore specific natural resources that inspired these artists.
“Indefinitely Wild: Preserving California’s Natural Resources” is on view through September 9, 2023.