Paradise Lost: Art in the Anthropocene

Gallery 279

As humanity has grown, in power as well as numbers, so has our impact on the natural environment. Today, we are increasingly aware of widespread changes to the Earth’s ecosystems, learning more about their scientific origins, measuring them as they take place, and beginning to address these effects.

Many scientists regard the increasing effect of humanity on the Earth’s systems in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch. They call it “the Anthropocene”—the Age of Man—the first time in history that we can measure our environmental impact on the planet, accounting for changes in climate, the growth or decline of biodiversity, and species extinctions.

The artworks in this gallery, dating roughly from the Industrial Revolution (late 18th century) to the present, bear witness to these incursions and to our environmental awakening, from symbolic and evocative statements to documentary call-to-actions.

Elizabeth Armstrong, Curator of Contemporary Art and Director of the Center for Alternative Museum Practice (CAMP)