Nouveau color field painting

There's no phone number, no website and no road map once you get there. You just have to drive around and look - very closely - for this deliberately deceptive work of art.

Not a city generally noted for its contemporary art, Phoenix, Arizona has become the site of a sprawling, urban work of land art involving the public and their property, locally known as "Greenix".

The premise and execution are simple. Some residents, faced with city regulations that require them under peril of fines or even legal action to maintain a green lawn (or convert to desert landscaping), are painting their brown grass green.

In doing so, they both satisfy the city's aesthetic requirements and, with their comically practical response, critique our culture's cherished, European-derived notion of horticultural splendor - one which, it's easy to argue, is inappropriate and ecologically irresponsible for a Western, desert environment.

At the same time, each painted lawn becomes part of an evolving, fragmented canvas spanning the the city to its desert edges.

Ideologically, the work raises a number of questions. Do our eyes, brains and psyches require greenness, whether photosynthetically or artificially generated? If so, at what cost should we indulge this need? At what point does water become too precious to spend on non-native tracts of grass? What is a beautiful yard? And what constitutes "private" when everyone walking by can see it?

It's pretty remarkable that a community of ordinary residents should come together with such a fully-formed artistic vision - one that effectively combines conceptual, land, and street art with a kind of literal color field painting. It's part Ai WeiWei, part Goldsworthy, part Banksy, part Rothko, and 100% homegrown.

I wonder if, in addition to blending these disparate art forms, Greenix is also the vanguard to a new approach to artmaking that breaks not merely from the studio and gallery, but from the primacy of artists themselves as the sole realizers of an idea? Followers of the scene are speculating that there must be an artist or group of artists behind the project, unifying, organizing and driving it, though there is a lot of conjecture as to who the mastermind/s might be. For the present, their anonymity adds to the power and ethos of this egoless mode of artistic expression. 

Whoever is behind it, the work apparently pioneers a new urban/suburban art movement in which ordinary folks make use of their own properties to make a collective artistic, and in this case, social, political and ecological statement.

In its populist, inclusive approach, Greenix relates to the flash-mobs that have popped up across Europe and America in malls and public places, where members of the public seemingly spontaneously erupt into song and sometimes dance, to the bafflement and delight of onlookers. I for one am curious to see if the movement develops further in the visual art world.

The word "Greenix" and the above article are a conceptual interpretation of a NYT article on the greening of Phoenix, Arizona