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A La Luz emerges as platform for environmentally-focused artwork

May 01, 2020
tags:#art, #environmental activism, #artists, #A La Luz, #environmental art, #petition
located:Spain, United Kingdom, USA
by:Yair Oded
As the ecological collapse of our planet intensifies, attempts to tackle the crisis proliferate. Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a global effort to tame the destruction of the planet and avoid the most adverse effects of the climate crisis. Nevertheless, these efforts have proven insufficient.  

Pollution and destruction of the environment persist across the world, with the backing of some of the most powerful and wealthy countries (such as the U.S.) and industries. Public indifference to the severity of the issue, as well as its role in perpetuating it, remains a serious problem.

Although too often overlooked, art constitutes an important tool in bringing the environmental crisis to the forefront of public discussion. It also stresses the magnitude and universality of the issue. And while scientific research is crucial, art operates on a separate, equally important dimension that can obliterate people’s apathy and instigate both personal and collective action.

A La Luz is an online platform that exhibits and promotes environmentally-minded creative works. Co-curated by David Cass and Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero, the platform features a wide range of artworks, from painting and architecture to theatre and film, all of which either deal with the environment directly or adopt sustainable practices throughout the creative process. It also features a growing collection of articles, research materials, and creative texts on environmental issues. 

Cass, who is now based out of the U.K., deals primarily with painting and construction, but his recent work has also featured photography, writing, survey, and curation. Based out of both Spain and New York City, Gómez-Cortázar centers his work mainly around fine arts photography and video art. The two met in Spain back in 2014, and bonded over their similar visual and artistic styles and mutual interest in the environment. They collaborated on a few environmentally-focused projects together, the most prominent of which was called El Bosque Encarnado - a video art piece documenting a burned forest in southern Spain. 

Cass and Gómez-Cortázar then began developing A La Luz, and decided to use it as a platform primarily for others to exhibit their environmentally-conscious works in. 

“A La Luz is a Spanish phrase, and it has several meanings,” Gómez-Cortázar told FairPlanet. “It could mean ‘to bring to the light’; something that was in the dark, you bring it to the surface and you reveal it. It also means ‘in the spotlight’. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with our platform: to bring to the light, to reveal, to disseminate works that we think are important because of their environmental message.”

The content exhibited and promoted on A La Luz encompasses works created by individuals from around the globe. It is raw and piercing; urgent and thought-provoking. 

One such work is Among the Polar Ice, an exhibition that took place earlier this year in Scotland and is now featured on A La Luz. The exhibition presented a collection of works dealing with the polar ice caps, but centres around two sets of paintings by Scottish artists Frances Walker and James Morrison. “The breathtaking paintings on show offer a visual record of the world’s diminishing ice caps & remind us all that we have a role to play in their survival”, Cass and Gómez-Cortázar write on the exhibition’s web-page on A La Luz. 

Using their platform, Cass and Gómez-Cortázar shine the spotlight on particular aspects of the artists’ works. In their review of painter Anselm Kiefer’s latest work, Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot, Cass and Gómez-Cortázar offer an alternative outlook on the paintings, focusing on their depiction of landscapes from a planet on the verge of collapse, or as they put it, “as a journey toward disaster.” 

“We really believe that when it comes to the environment, science is key , obviously, but we do think that art and culture have the power to connect with people”, said Gómez-Cortázar. “It’s a way of disseminating ideas, not only the facts and data, but also it’s a way of communicating complex ideas and emotions and feelings around the environment. It’s a way of bringing actual change, because humans are very emotional, and we think we do need that element of culture around the environment to bring change.”

Some of the creative work exhibited on the website does not deal directly with environmental issues, but rather use sustainable methods in their process of creation: sculptors using locally-sourced, raw materials to create organic sculptures; artists gathering natural materials to dye fabrics; colourists abandoning synthetic paints in favour of natural ones.

A La Luz does not only invite viewers to contemplate and observe various environmental issues as they’re depicted through art, but actively encourages them to take action and participate in the fight to preserve our planet. A petition launched by A La Luz in August 2019, for instance, calls on news outlets, such as BBC, to include a set slot for environmental news in their daily broadcasts. 

As their platform grows, Cass and Gómez-Cortázar hope to expand their outreach and feature more types of environmentally-minded creative works. One of the possibilities the two curators are exploring for the future is holding an environmental film festival on their platform, stressing the importance of film as an art medium that drives change. “When we talk about the environment we think that audio-visual elements are crucial to make an impact in people’s mind,” said  Gómez-Cortázar. “And making these kinds of film available online will be a really powerful tool for people all over the world to see these perspectives around the climate crisis.” 

A La Luz has an ongoing open call for artists, and Cass and Gómez-Cortázar strongly encourage creators of all disciplines to submit their environmentally-conscious works.

In an era of enormous bewilderment, growing fear, and prevalent indifference about the declining state of our planet, our connection to nature, and the role we play in tipping the ecological balance - it is important to shine the spotlight on creative works that can tap into our psyche, rattle our emotions, and spark action.

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Yair Oded
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A Sea of Regret XII 2019 | Oil on canvas | 95 x 135 cm by Isak Anshelm
A Sea of Regret XII 2019 | Oil on canvas | 95 x 135 cm by Isak Anshelm
Ramanujan Summation (detail) 2019 | Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac & wood on canvas | 660 x 665 cm by Anselm Kiefer
Ramanujan Summation (detail) 2019 | Oil, emulsion, acrylic, shellac & wood on canvas | 660 x 665 cm by Anselm Kiefer
Still from \'El Bosque encarnado\' (2015), by Gonzaga Gomez-Cortazar and David Cass
Still from 'El Bosque encarnado' (2015), by Gonzaga Gomez-Cortazar and David Cass
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