In an age when socially and politically motivated artists are resorting to increasingly bombastic means, Andrea Juan diverges from this approach, in a practice that puts beauty and poeticism above all else. For the past decade, the Argentine artist has been researching climate change and the melting polar ice caps, then bringing her research to the field with trips to Antarctica, where she stages performances and creates installations and projections. Luckily for us, Juan brings back evidence of these interventions in the form of videos and gorgeous photographs, the latest body of which are on view in “Organic,” her newest exhibition at Praxis.
Although her concern with global climate change is real and pressing, Juan’s project is instinctively an aesthetic one. “The light is so intense and bright that it modifies the colors throughout the day,” she says of her Antarctic studio, “while the horizon line blends into a white plane where the sun bounces and never sets.” Using the stark, barren tundra as her canvas, Juan aims to activate it in unexpected ways; she has made projections that turn snowy expanses into fields of wildflowers, and her gauzy constructions like those in “Organic” dance in the wind and cast complex shadows on the snow. One can’t help but think of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s textile interventions in the natural world, though Juan’s strike a more intimate, mysterious tone.
But there’s something more serious lurking within these whimsical installations. For Juan, statistics and reports are a limited means of getting people fired up about the melting caps, and she sees beauty and positivity as the answer. “It’s not about denying what is happening, but rather about formulating a positive, instead of a catastrophic, situation,” she says. “With images, the sensitivity begins to flow in a different manner, the work transcends reason, enters the soul, and that’s where change happens.” There’s something infectious about Juan’s positivity, and there’s no denying the beauty of her works; here’s hoping she’s onto something with this unorthodox strategy for art-as-activism.
“Organic by Andrea Juan” is on view at Praxis April 3 - May 10, 2014.