Sierra Club founder David Brower advised activists: “Have a good time saving the world. Otherwise, you’re just going to depress yourself.” We need to start thinking seriously about human futures. The 22 Bay Area artists selected for Hello Tomorrow by the Berkeley Art Museum’s Lucinda Barnes, the Brower Center’s Amy Tobin, and this writer (wearing a jaunty curatorial cap) deliver that message with humor and beauty.
Twenty-five years ago, the critic Suzi Gablik argued for art that would restore to viewers a sense of the sacredness of the natural world. Mari Andrews (“This or That”), Viviana Paredes (“We Were Once Of”), and Esther Traugot (“Stubs”) incorporate natural materials like wood, moss, and corn seeds into their elegant sculptures. Anthony Holdsworth (“Las Tres Hermanas #3”) and Jeff Long (“Farallon”) paint plant and animal life, respectively, combining careful observation with aesthetic passion, while Lisa Espenmiller (“Where You Come From”) interprets nature through abstraction and William Harsh (“Colony”) depicts nature’s irresistible force, resurgent even after disasters like oil spills. Timothy Armstrong (“Tree Memorial — San Francisco”), Hagit Cohen (“Acid Rain — Morning Glory”), and Ryan Hendon (“Battery Cranston #1) photograph juxtapositions between the natural and man-made. Claire Brandt (“Fin II”) employs drawing to depict majestic marine life.
The artists take a satirical look at our hubris, and extrapolate, mordantly, the world if we fail to change. Mark Bryan (“The Mad Tea Party”) paints our current political surrealism as absurd and insane, while Michelle Waters (“Global Warning”) paints the animal-human tables turned due to climate change, and Michael Kerbow (“Their Refinement of the Decline”) creates a dystopian industrial landscape suggesting both Brueghel and Giger. Ruth Santee (“Semi in Vivo”) draws a semi truck as an insect juggernaut. Photographer Noah Breuer (“Superior Airpower Pinwheel”) creates a child’s pinwheels from fighter airplanes, while Alicia Escott (“Photograph of Readymade Object #3”) creates an abject object: a polar-bear kitchen timer; Grant Johnson (“Welcome to the Future”) creates a gigantic tourist postcard, polluted, that makes us wish we were not here; and Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang (“The Plasticene Discontinuity”) postulate a layer of plastic to be discovered by future scientists. Stephen Whisler (“For the Birds”) imagines avian life vanished in his coffin-shaped birdhouses, and Kimberlee Koyn-Murteira (“Night Scrubber,” “Bubble Growth,” and “Contained”) creates faux science experiments based on common household toxins. And Alexis Laurent (“Billboard”) constructs a plant-covered roadway sign that sells nothing, but does clean the air. Read the succinct explanatory labels by Oakland gallerist Chandra Cerrito. Hello Tomorrow runs through September 2 at David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way, Berkeley). 510-486-0286 or BrowerCenter.org.