Gustav Metzger

And Then Came the Environment

13 September 2024 – 5 January 2025

Downtown Los Angeles

Born in Nuremberg to Polish-Jewish parents, Gustav Metzger (1926 – 2017) fled Nazi Germany to England via the ‘Kindertransport’ when he was 13. When he began his art studies in 1945, he entered a world inspired by scientific experimentation, just as the Atomic Age—in all its paradoxes—dawned. 

Over seventy years, through his writing, calls to action and art, Metzger wrestled with the contradictions of his time by championing how both ‘auto-destruction’ and ‘auto-creation’ in science, ecology, politics and art were equally important tactics to address the state of humanity. 

‘Gustav Metzger. And Then Came the Environment’ is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles and his second major show in the US. The title comes from Metzger’s 1992 essay ‘Nature Demised’ where he proclaims an ‘urgent need to redefine notions of nature and the environment,’ because ‘environment’ is a term that ‘has been hijacked by the forces that are manipulating the world’ and it should be renamed ‘Damaged Nature.’ 

The show features seminal early experiments developed with scientists, such as ‘Dancing Tubes’ (1968) developed in the Filtration Laboratory of the University College of Swansea and ‘Liquid Crystal Environment’ (1965) which was one of the earliest public demonstrations of what would become Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)—now omnipresent in our computer, telephone and watch screens. For the first time an animation has also been commissioned in response to Metzger’s writings. Artist Justin Richburg—who created the animation for Childish Gambino’s hit ‘Feels like Summer’—will produce a short in response to Metzger’s ‘Damaged Nature’ manifesto.  

The exhibition will be accompanied by a Hauser & Wirth Publishers book featuring decades of conversations between Metzger and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.   
‘Gustav Metzger. And Then Came the Environment’ will be presented in conjunction with the Getty Museum’s citywide PST Art initiative, ‘Art & Science Collide.’ 

Image: Gustav Metzger, Liquid Crystal Environment, 1966/2021 © The Estate of Gustav Metzger and The Gustav Metzger Foundation. Photo: Ken Adlard 

About the Artist

Gustav Metzger

Gustav Metzger was a visionary artist and radical thinker. At the heart of his practice, which spanned over 65 years, are a series of constantly opposing yet interdependent forces such as destruction and creation. Metzger’s involvement in anti-nuclear movements such as the Committee of 100 and his life-long activism to...

Current Exhibitions