Alice Hargrave’s show at Alma Art and Interior is a tour de force of heartbreaking ecological devastation. While Hargrave’s past shows have tended to speak to single issues, say the extinction of certain songbirds, this exhibition merges works from many of her series into one immersive wake-up call. Lynn Manilow, the show’s curator, says, “Alice envelops the viewer into the serenity and magic of the natural world with stunning visuals and sounds from the wild. I really wanted to bring that type of immersive experience to Alma so that viewers could be both engaged with the beauty that surrounds us while being made aware of the vulnerabilities we face with climate change.”
The work is stunningly beautiful, and viewers are drawn in by the splendor only to realize, once fully engaged, the actual significance of the pieces—how dire the situations being addressed by Hargrave’s works are. The ethereal fabric panels, nearly floor to ceiling, shudder with each passing air current while sounds of the wilderness echo through the project space. At first glance, the panels appear to be textile patterns—various motifs are repeated again and again. But the titles explain the graphs and maps that make them up—the shrinking of Lake Abiyata in Ethiopia over a decade, the invasive species of Lake Otsego in New York State, and the dangers of magenta algal bloom in Lake Tovel, Italy. The list goes on and on, a litany of our abundant damage to Mother Earth and her multitude of endangered species. A panel titled “The Elephant in the Room,” created from the sound waves produced by the calls of Asian elephants layered with a ten-foot-high image of the beautiful creature in the center of the space, is framed by other panels, other disasters, other cries for help. Vocalizations of South China tigers, which are extinct in the wild, form a panel that looks like Kente cloth.
There are works on paper that line the walls of the space, most notably two pieces called “Conversations.” One is between a black-and-white warbler, a ruby-crowned kinglet, and a snowy egret, overlapping images of the sound waves of each bird and creating a somewhat abstract composition. And the other, a conversation between a snowy egret, a palm warbler, and a black-and-white warbler, effectively sound reduced to the silence of pigment prints on paper, as if the birds are already extinct. There are two woven Jacquard tapestries as well—“Esperanza,” which means hope, and “Pink Night, The Luxury of Night,” both portraying lush vegetation. Hargrave uses the word luxury sparingly but effectively, meaning that things like dark nights and cold winters may soon be but memories. Whatever lessons are contained in Hargrave’s work must be heeded—there is no time for subtlety, no time to waste. The work is beautiful and deadly, and the message is clear.
“Alice Hargrave: A Forest Shouting” is on view at Alma Art and Interiors, 3636 South Iron through March 1, 2024.