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Writer: Bradley Paul
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Immediate

Environmental works of artist Sonfist will be at UI Museum of Art

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "Alan Sonfist: History and the Landscape," a survey of the artist's career working with environmental forms and media, will be on display Jan. 25 through March 16 in the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

An opening reception for the museum's new exhibitions will be held 5-7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, in the museum. The reception will feature "Artist and Critic: A Dialogue," a discussion of the exhibition between Sonfist and art critic Eleanor Heartney, at 5:30 p.m.

Heartney, who is a regular contributor to Art in America and other publications, wrote the essay for the illustrated catalogue that accompanies the exhibition.

The exhibition and the reception are free and open to the public.

In the 1960s, Sonfist was among the first artists to conceive of ecological and environmental functions as the basis of an artwork. Unlike earth artists, who use virgin environments as fields for formal modification, Sonfist works by recreating natural landscapes in urban places, such as downtown New York or Paris.

Sonfist refers to his works as "time parks" or "narrative parks." Using the flora native to an area, Sonfist developes a site that recalls the local development of human culture. For example, a two-acre park near Florence, Italy, recalls 3,000 years of history in concentric circles of Greek laurel, Etruscan herbs, Roman paving stones and a working olive grove.

Surrounded by skyscrapers and asphalt, and frequently fenced-in, Sonfist's works derive much of their meaning not from pastoral nostalgia, but by acknowledging the conflicts between nature and the modern urban world.

The exhibition at the Museum of Art will include photographs of Sonfist's large outdoor projects, as well as drawings, paintings and installation works.

One of Sonfist's most famous works, "Gene Banks," will be on display. For this work Sonfist assembled photographs of the Bronx's virgin hemlock forest and placed them above jars that contain seeds and fragments of trees from the forest. The work suggests the persepctive of future generations who could only reconstruct a lost natural world from these artifacts.

The exhibition will also feature some of the artist's "natural paintings," in which Sonfist selects twigs and leaves from a site on the forest floor and arranges them on a canvas exactly as they were found in nature. After being exhibited, the entire arrangement will be returned to the forest floor to decompose naturally.

This exhibition was organized by the UI Museum of Art and was funded in part by grants from the UI Cultural Affairs Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the museum is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots across from the museum on Riverside Drive, and adjacent to the UI Alumni Center, which is just north of the museum.