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February 15, 2023By Anabella Alfonzo

Hablan poco los árboles, se sabe.

Pasan la vida entera meditando

y moviendo sus ramas.

Basta mirarlos en otoño

cuando se juntan en los parques:

sólo conversan los más viejos

Eugenio Montejo, Los árboles 

Trees have been a subject matter for artists throughout history. Painters, sculptors, and many contemporary artists continue to be inspired by trees: The concepts they represent, the feelings they evoke, their shape, colour, scale, their important function, their uses in the modern world, and a plethora of other themes that emerge from their artistic explorations.

As part of a research study, when looking at Tree sculptures and similar art installations, we were particularly fascinated by the artworks that propose new ways of looking at trees, like Pamela Rosenkranz’ visceral red and pink tree coming up to the High Line this Spring (#1), Vladimir Kanic’s tree prototype and his latest oxygen producing living sculptures (#4), or Charles Campbell’s Tree: Finding Accompong, connecting us to slavery roots through respiratory metaphors (#9).

Here, we show only a glimpse of the wide variety of approaches and artistic expressions we have been studying – Enjoy!

1. Pamela Rosenkranz. Old Tree. High Line, NYC. 2023-24. The winner of the third High Line Plinth commission, this red and pink 25-foot tall sculpture will be installed this Spring. “Reading as a tree (but obviously artificial), this rendition will have visceral qualities, with branches tapering into blood vessels and roots reaching over the earthen-clad plinth as though poised for flight.” – Hilarie M. Sheets for New York Times.

2. Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Wrapped Trees. Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98. "Christo and Jeanne-Claude have worked with trees for many years. In 1998, 178 trees were wrapped with 55,000 square meters (592,015 square feet) of woven polyester fabric (used every winter in Japan to protect trees from frost and heavy snow) and 23 kilometres of rope. The branches of the Wrapped Trees pushed the translucent fabric outward created dynamic volumes of light and shadow, moving in the wind with new forms and surfaces shaped by the ropes on the fabric." – Christo and Jeanne-Claude

3. Yayoi Kusama. Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees. Cosmic Nature exhibition. New York Botanical Garden. 2021.

4. Vladimir Kanic. Tree of Life, prototype for a new public monument in Toronto. 2020 – An interactive bionic sculpture made from algae cleans the air using light to induce photosynthesis. And Garden of Waves. Toronto. 2023. Sculptures that use spectators’ breath as food by converting it into oxygen. Kanic uses biological processes of living algae to capture carbon dioxide, create oxygen, and purify the air from toxins. The sculptures are made from organic biopolymers.

5. Marc Fornes/ TheVeryMany, Pine Sanctuary. Riverwood Conservancy, Mississauga. 2017. Commissioned by the City of Mississauga's Public Art Collection, Pine Sanctuary depicts an arboreal structure of trunkless branches that extend from a center point, reaching the ground lightly, creating a covered grove-like pavilion structure, blurring the boundaries between nature, art and architecture.

6. Douglas Coupland. Golden Tree. Vancouver. 2016.

7. Alexander Calder. The Tree, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen / Basel, 1966. |  Mobiles Installation | Little Janey-Waney, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Sculpture Park, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, 1964-76.

8. Ai Weiwei. Tree. Tate Modern. London, UK. 2010. “Ai’s work often points to complex social and geopolitical issues affecting contemporary China. The dry wood of which Tree is composed draws attention to the country’s rapid urbanisation and economic growth, which have resulted in damage to the natural environment and the suppression of traditional culture. In addition, the act of bringing together numerous individual branches to create a whole can be read as symbolic of the relationship between the individual and society, a broader issue but one which has particular resonance in a Chinese context.”Lena Fritsch for Tate Modern.

9. Charles Campbell. Tree: Finding Accompong. Shown at the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition titled Vancouver Special: Disorientations and Echo. 2021.
“A black sculpture whose branches stretch toward the ceiling in forms that evoke not just slave yokes (the forked wooden sticks once used to tie captives together) but also the pathways of the respiratory system. The title refers to the historical Jamaican village of Accompong, where 18th-century Maroons (Africans who had escaped slavery) would meet and organize themselves under a large Kindah tree.” – Janet Smith for Stir Vancouver.

10. Arne Quinze. The Sequence, Brussels, Belgium. 2008. An 80-meter long and 15-meter high sculpture that creates a canopy that connects the Flemish parliament to the House of Flemish Representatives in Brussels, Belgium. And, Lupine Sculpture, Venice Biennale, 2022, reflecting on the power of nature. "Here, Arne Quinze’s work seems to have gushed out of the earth in a powerful message from an artist commanding attention for the beauty of nature. This piece symbolizes the first leap by which unbridled nature reclaims the city.” Arne Quinze.


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