Reflecting on Climate Change: Images of Josh Kline’s Artwork Added to RDC for Earth Day

In anticipation of Earth Day celebrations on campus, hear from Visual Resources Assistant Andee Gude ’26 about their President’s Summer Fellowship and the decision to add artist Josh Kline’s work to the Art & Architecture Collection in Reed Digital Collections (RDC). 

This blog post was written by Visual Resources Assistant and Art History major Andee Gude ’26, and edited by the Library’s Visual Resources Curator Chloe Van Stralendorff.

In the summer of 2023, I embarked on a journey to New York to dive into as many art spaces as possible over two weeks. The exhibition Project for a New American Centuryat the Whitney Museum of American Art had a lasting impression on me, more so than any other during my short visit. 

Kline’s work explores critical issues such as climate change, politics, AI, capitalism, disease, labor, and technology. Much of his work was originally created in the early 2010s but remains deeply relevant to the societal challenges we face today. I’ll highlight two installations that especially resonated with me, but for those interested in exploring more, the exhibition, which concluded this summer at the Whitney, can be fully appreciated on their website, along with additional works by Kline on his website.

One impactful project was “Climate Change is Personal Responsibility (2023-),” set in a future ravaged by climate disasters. The installation is set in the future, following climate disasters, and features materials “used by refugees and migrants in the United States and around the world” (Whitney Museum of American Art). These shelters Kline created represent homes and workplaces for those who remain “essential workers” forced to face the impacts of climate change in the pursuit of labor and financial stability. Within this installation are two sets of videos, one being titled “Capture and Sequestration (2023)” which address “the enslavement of Africans and the theft of Indigenous land” concerning the assumed downfall of the land in light of the dramatic climate change (Whitney Museum of American Art). The videos highlight commodities like sugar, tobacco, cotton, and oil, and how “human-made global warming and climate change back through America’s global empire and the industrial revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” will ultimately contribute to Kline’s perception of the future (Whitney Museum of American Art). The other videos fictionally survey Americans facing the disaster, informed by “extensive research into the experiences of survivors of climate-related disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey and the recent wildfires in California” (Whitney Museum of American Art). In this project, Kline prompts his audience to consider this future. 

Another project that captivated me was Blue Collars (2014–20), featuring sculptural portraits and video interviews with American workers from corporations like Walmart and Waffle House. Initiated in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession, the interviews include a diverse group of employees, from delivery personnel to hotel cleaners, represented through 3D printed sculptures and were interviewed about their “..their jobs, aspirations, political views, and feelings about the conditions of their lives in general” (Whitney Museum of American art). This project underscored Kline’s position that “work turns human bodies and human lives into products” (Whitney Museum of American Art).

One of our goals at the Visual Resources Center, is to add current exhibitions and artwork that resonates with student’s interests. Motivated by what I experienced at the Whitney, I initiated a collection development project for Reed’s Digital Collections (RDC) focused on Josh Kline’s work from the exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. With the urgent conversations surrounding climate change, labor, AI, and capitalism, Kline’s work is a pertinent addition to Reed’s Digital Collections, especially as we approach Earth Day and reflect on our planet’s future.

Work Cited

  1. Josh Kline. Josh Kline | home. (n.d.). 
  2. Josh Kline: Project for a new american century. Whitney Museum of American Art. (n.d.-b).