Early this summer a living earthwork project launched in DUMBO, Brooklyn by the name of John Street Pasture. Designed by artist Andrea Reynosa, collaborating with Smack Mellon FOODshed, Alloy, and built by Brooklyn Grange—the long-time vacant lot at 1 John Street, transformed into an exercise in art, agriculture, and public space. (slideshow at end of article)
With soil donated by Brooklyn Bridge Park, 1 John Street was sown with crimson clover seeds, which eventually produced a thick green carpet, topped with alluring red blossoms. Once the installation is removed, the enriched soil and composted clover will be incorporated into the construction of a new section of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Reynosa has lived in DUMBO for many years, and the lot has always been a vacant unused eye-sore. Her local home looks out onto the lot. Andrea Reynosa is a co-founder of the non-profit Smack Mellon Gallery.
Reynosa conceived of John Street Pasture as some what of an updated approach to conceptual artist Agnes Denes’ Wheatfield. In 1982 Denes planted a wheatfield on 2 acres of landfill that is now Battery Park City, exploring natural cycles of growth and regeneration. And at that time, our ignorant view of modern ecology, or at least the lack of compassion.
The narrative of the Pasture is soil, a contemporary investigation which delves deeper into our understanding of sustainability, and Genetically Modified Foods. Wheatfield, and its 1,000 lb yield, toured in “The International Art Show for the End of World Hunger”, suggesting that unused space be used to feed us, whereas John Street Pasture acknowledges soil degradation caused by traditional farming—and at some point we must begin to aid in rejuvenation. I would argue that both artists share in a similar idea, yet it is important to remember ideas have many interpretations. Reynosa has caught this space in its limbo, giving it meaning while it awaits new use, just as I’m sure she has spent many hours staring off into this lot, yet she managed to catch that idea between ideas, that brief flicker of silence.
The pasture was also nice to look at. Providing local residents, visitors, and those who work in the neighborhood with 6000 square feet of eye pleasing beauty, including views of the Brooklyn Bridge. Visitors were in the company of pollinators, and goats. The grazing goats came at the end of the clover’s life cycle, stimulating additional nutrients. The soil will then be cultivated for the adjoining park. And the goats are headed to a local educational farm.
John Street Pasture is part of FOODshed: Agriculture and Art in Action, an exhibition of upstate/downstate NY artists who work with food and agriculture at Smack Mellon Gallery, curated by Amy Lipton.