At Pioneer Works, Three Visions of Flourishing Climate Futures

Through the lens of Erica Deeman, Denice Frohman, and Olalekan Jeyifous, a new exhibition in Brooklyn finds hope for the climate crisis in artistic strategies of transformation.

Olalekan Jeyifous

Marine biologist and policy expert Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s provocative book on climate futures is called What If We Get It Right? The idea that imagining solutions to challenges that feel overwhelming is possible—is, in fact, made possible by looking to successes in other intertwined, if imperiled, movements like racial and sexual equality—animates an exhibition Johnson has curated at Pioneer Works. “Climate Futurism” offers a trio of commissions from artists who view community engagement and social equity as tools to prevent ecological catastrophe.

In a meditation on the efficacy of small-scale efforts to address global problems, Erica Deeman suspends gypsum cast with seeds from Black farming traditions from the kind of biodegradable fishing line grassroots Jamaican groups used to revitalize local coral reefs. Poet Denice Frohman moves into visual art with a series of neon sculptures and a film that turns her words into a libretto paying tribute to anti-privatization organizing in Puerto Rico. And “architectural utopianist” Olalekan Jeyifous continues his Frozen Neighborhoods series with an installation deploying both augmented reality and 3D-printed scale models in a vision of utopian Brooklyn at once rooted in maroon communities and dreaming of Afro-surrealistic resistance. 

The trio is the inaugural cohort of the Headlands Center of the Arts Threshold Fellowship, a program designed by the Golden Gates National Recreation Area–based organization to foster engagement with artists in fields outside their disciplines. “Climate Futurism” will expand on their installations with a full slate of public programming throughout the fall, including a conversation series created and moderated by Johnson about food systems and climate diasporas.

Erica Deeman
Denice Frohman

(All photography by Dan Bradica, courtesy of the artists and Pioneer Works.)

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