I think that I shall never see / A photo lovely as a tree. Wait…that’s not how the famous Joyce Kilmer rhyme goes. But doesn’t it make more sense that way? A photograph or painting of a tree is hardly ever a replacement for the real thing. After you see these works on display in a brand-new exhibition, however, you may just think otherwise.
Opening today at the Fondation Cartier in Paris and running through November 10, the multidisciplinary exhibition “Trees” aims to present a new look at one of the most quotidian life forms on the planet. Through the use of paintings, photographs, films, and even simplistic drawings by artists from indigenous communities—such as the Yanomami, from the Amazon rain forest—“Trees” serves as a bold, graphic response to the worldwide threat of deforestation, one that grows more prevalent by the day. The exhibition was assembled with the help of noted botanists and anthropologists, who brought their scientific backgrounds to bear on what would normally be a purely aesthetic enterprise.
In one of the most striking images—Sebastián Mejía’s black-and-white photograph of a Shell gas station in Santiago, Chile, built around a towering palm—you can see the tense relationship between man and nature writ large. And it should go without saying that the exhibition continues outside the Jean Nouvel-designed building into the foundation’s gardens, where visitors will, of course, walk among actual trees but can also find other works, among them a sculpture created especially for this show by Agnès Varda, the acclaimed Belgian director who died earlier this year.
The images here and below are some of our favorites from this breathtaking collection. So the next time you marvel at a majestic oak in the park or enjoy the shade of a friendly maple in your own backyard, you might pause to think about where these trees came from…and whether they may soon disappear.
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