“Waves,” an exhibition of sobering but lively and eclectic works in various media at Arts Warehouse, opened a couple of weeks ago in conjunction with the city of Delray Beach’s annual Climate and Art Weekend. The purpose of this multi-pronged climate outreach event is to “raise awareness about the impacts of climate changes and the need to proactively adapt.” The 26 artists in “Waves” (running through Oct. 29) certainly address these issues and more, in ways both oblique and direct.
In their sheer size and bluntness, Dana and Ruth Kleinman’s sculptures appraise our polluted waters and infrastructure with a mordant wit. “Tidemarkers” consists of stainless steel bars gleaming from the gallery wall but encrusted with enamel gunk on both ends—as if they are the ocean’s Q-Tips. In their adjoining “Construction Series,” repurposed industrial pipes attached to the wall spew a motley arrangement of ribboned canvas representing, to my eyes anyway, our human detritus frozen in time.
Evidence of rising seas and humans’ inability to adapt appear throughout “Waves.” Ates Isildak’s “Hard Rain” is a series of archival prints showing cities underwater, with only the skyscrapers still standing amid the apocalyptic flood. In Matt Jacob Whitman’s Dadaist painting “Cupids Dilemma,” a family rides a bus that also happens to contain a waterfall that will soon drown the occupants. One of the handrails blooms like a tree, and a comparatively giant rubber ducky bobs below them. Perhaps our climate emergency is so absurdly dark in its implications that surrealist humor is an apt coping mechanism.
As for Todd Lim’s pointedly titled installation “Sink or Swim,” in which a rope connects a life vest to an anchor-like sink on the gallery floor, the symbolism speaks for itself: We’re doomed.
Other artists mourn what has already been lost, particularly Florida’s mythic frontier. Angelica Clyman’s “Everglades Gatorland” remembers this titular roadside attraction through a 3D assemblage of old maps, photographs marketing materials and paintings. She captures Gatorland’s transition from tourist mecca to an overgrown land sunken into disrepair. Similarly, her “No Need for a Postcard,” with its solar-panel prints of fading Florida nature shots spilling from a distorted and weather-bent metal rack, serves as a metaphor for nature’s furious disregard for our false, picture-perfect idyll.
Not every artist focused on the negativity of the climate crisis. Others found poetry through the inspiration of “waves,” such as photographer Samuel Spear Jr.’s mesmerizing close-up of water in motion. Sculptor Diane Lublinski’s “Coral Reef Pods” are an affectionate representation of these wondrous and threatened sea dwellers, while Wuilfredo Soto’s contribution to “Waves” is an example of shimmering op art.
But more often than not, the artists in this exhibition used their talents to remind us that we’re in the midst of a four-alarm fire. In that regard, my personal “Best in Show” might be Melanie Oliva’s “Florida After Image #2,” which features our iconic river of grass bleached a sickly red, as if suffering from nuclear fallout. It’s the sort of work that addresses our largely invisible climate reality with the urgent foreboding it deserves.
“Waves” runs through Oct. 29 at Arts Warehouse, 313 N.E. Third St., Delray Beach. Admission is free. For information, call 561/330-9614 or visit artswarehouse.org.
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