Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, and James Turrell

The Lightning Field by Walter De Maria, photo from Dia 

Last week we discussed Walter de Maria, specifically his most famous work, The Lightning Field. Lightning Field is found in a remote desert in western New Mexico. The work is comprised of 400 steel poles spread throughout the field, arranged to be at the same altitude. Located in an area known to have many storms, the work sporadically attracts lightning strikes. At different times of the day, the poles reflect the sunlight, creating an artwork of themselves. The articles we read gave different personal accounts and experiences of those traveling to the famous artwork. Here, we began to see how others interacted with the work, and began to understand how the piece can work without lightning. The articles also highlighted the significance of “space.” In class, our discussion covered how important the experience of the work is, and how each individual experience is completely different from another due to the innumerable amount of factors.

Double Negative by Michael Heizer, photo from CLUI

Our next artist we discussed was Michael Heizer. We covered his most famous work, Double Negative. This earth work is a large trench in the earth, 50 feet deep, 30 feet wide, spanning a total of 1500 feet.  Heizer displaced 240,000 tons of rock for this trench. The trench sits on either side of a natural canyon. The article we read for the class was “Rend(er)ing” by Mark C. Taylor. Many people found this article to be extremely confusing, as it discussed the artwork in a very deeply philosophical and redundant manner. This lead to a very interesting discussion, in which we discovered how Heizer believed in “symbolic logic” and how significant the title, Double Negative, was of the work.

Roden Crater by James Turrell, photo from www.rodencrater.com

Our last artist we discussed was James Turrell. He is known as an artist of light. It is not about light or the record of light, it IS light. His most famous earthwork is Roden Crater. Roden Crater is located in an extinct volcanic crater near Arizona’s Painted Desert. An intricate series of tunnels and sky spaces give interesting views of natural light at different angles, meant to be experienced at different times of the day. Issues with funding and land purchasing leave this work en route to completion. This lead to a discussion in class about how artists may have difficulty with funds, as well as how we as artists can gather support and funding for our own art.

Trevor Campbell, Alyson Walbridge, and Noelle Wiegand

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tony Tasset's "Robert Smithson (Las Vegas)"

Tony Tasset, Robert Smithson (Las Vegas), 1995

Nikki Stacey brought me this postcard from her recent trip to Chicago. Long familiar with Tasset's artwork, I was not aware of this particular piece. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago launched an exhibition entitled The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology in 2013 and it featured Tasset's photograph (which is incidentally 83" tall). It reminded me of my favorite earthworks focusing on the performance (and consequently the shovel):

Keith Arnatt, Self-Burial, 1969

Jacinda Russell

Friday, March 27, 2015

Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt, Video still from East Coast/West Coast (with Robert Smithson), 1969

This week Dan and Ashley introduced a somewhat biographical look at the artists Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt. We were given the unique opportunity to look into these artists lives and see how they worked together. Often the readings are about artists existing and working in the same era, but it is truly a rare opportunity to get to se a pair of artists who inspire each other as closely as Smithson and Holt. These artists created some of the most mammoth earthworks we have studied so far. In a more modern era, these artists are using the idea of the spirit of place and incorporating new themes. They are letting the land define the art and using their western experiences as influences.

Robert Smithson and the building of Spiral Jetty, 1970

Smithson was inspired by the West but worked mainly from New York City. He used his inspirations and went on these quests to find the “right” places for his work. One of the most interesting characteristics of Robert Smithson was that it wasn’t about the work so much as the place. He let the place inspire what the work did. In the building of the Spiral Jetty, he was driven to find a place with red water to build an earthwork. From the readings we transcribed that the spiral form was a projection from the environment (both literally and figuratively). Smithson was also interested in the idea of entropy. Which is when the earth claims the earth. Massive earthworks, such as Spiral Jetty, involve disrupting the earth’s natural environment. Over time, the earth will reclaim this. Other than Spiral Jetty, Smithson spent his career creating work base on the idea of altering landscape and how the earth would react to what he was doing to it as well. After his Death Nancy took it upon herself to finish out the plans Robert had designed for an earthwork titled Amarillo Ramp.

Gianfranco Gorgoni, Nancy Holt filming the construction of Amarillo Ramp, 1973

Nancy Holt, who was married to Robert Smithson, was traveling out west with him when she fell in love with the landscape. Before then she was a photographer and a filmmaker. She was a visual artist and visual person who took in the beauty and majesty of the aesthetic of the west. Unlike NYC, where they spend most of their time, the desolate west was open, with lots of light and sweeping views. Nancy was inspired by the way she could frame out spaces in the open landscape. This was the driving motivation for the majority of her career as an earthwork artist. Later on, she became interested in the green side of earthworks. She made pieces, still involving the same sculptural elements she has used in the past but in new ways; to bring awareness to reclaiming the earth. Many of her earthworks also tend to deal with time, which is something she adopted from her career in photography and film.

 Nancy Holt, Detail of Sunlight in Sun Tunnels, 1976

Both Nancy and Robert contemplated the space they used with their work. Robert chose the Great Salt Lake to build this jetty. Viewers have to take a long pilgrimage to come see it and at the end of that pilgrimage, it may not even be visible or okay to walk on. Nancy’s earlier work did the same Sun Tunnels involved a long pilgrimage into the middle of the desert. A lot of time is needed to appreciate all this piece has to offer. During our discussion we really emphasized the intimate experience that is needed to be had with the Earthworks created by both Smithson and Holt. Time, space, light, and imagery are all important aspects of how each of these artists worked. We were able to understand these artists much more easily because they are more modern. We were also able to connect their work and philosophies back to other lessons, which was really awesome. A greater understanding of something comes from learning from multiple viewpoints.

Dan Martens and Ashley Vandervelde

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Michael Heizer in the News: Part 2

Last week, Scott Tennent of LACMA wrote "Protect Michael Heizer's 'City'." This plea to help save the land surrounding Michael Heizer's monumental artwork is reminiscent of the issues Lucy Lippard raised in Undermining. There are proposals to turn Basin and Range into a missile site as well as building a railroad that will transport nuclear waste very close to the earthwork. Two excerpts from the blog post follow:

"As with many of Heizer’s greatest works, the sculpture is incomplete without the surrounding landscape. The solitude of City is part of its power. To have the surrounding land developed into anything would severely impact Heizer’s work. To see the land developed into a site for military, energy, or waste purposes, would ruin it forever. After 43 years of work, can it really be destroyed like this?"

Michael Heizer's The City by Tom Vinetz

"Beyond Heizer’s artwork, protecting Basin and Range has other critical cultural and scientific ramifications. The area contains ancient lithic scatters, early Native American trails, and rock art dating back thousands of years as well as wildlife unique to the area and important geologic features. The conservation proposal has the potential to provide important information about use of this portion of the Basin and Range province from the Paleoindian period through the present."

Mt. Irish Archaeological District by Tyler Roemer

Two other notes:

• Sign the petition to protect the land [Basin and Range] surrounding The City here.
The current status of Double Negative as of two weeks ago.

[All images in this post via]

Jacinda Russell

Michael Heizer's Preliminary Sketch for "Levitated Mass"

[image via - also the location of Ina Jaffe's "340 Tons of Art: Levitated Mass to Rock L.A."]

James Turrell: On Flying, Light and Fundraising

 Ad Petersen, View out the Window of the Helio Courier Plane near Roden Crater, 1977

"One of the things about flying is that the places it has taken us are places that we haven't really begun inhabiting until very recently. Perceptually we are still a ground-based being, and we don't have a real good handle on the spaces of the skies. There are a lot of illusions that occur to pilots, that are actually rather dangerous... there are situations where absolute loss of horizon really does change things. Also, just where your perception is wrong."

James Turrell, from "Entering the New Landscape," James Turrell: A Retrospective

James Turrell, Akhob, Louis Vuitton City Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2013

"I've always wanted to make a light that looks like the light you see in your dream. Because the way that light infuses the dream, the way the atmosphere is colored, the way light rains off people with auras and things like that ... We don't normally see light like that. But we all know it. So this is not unfamiliar territory - or not unfamiliar light. I like to have this kind of light that reminds us of this other place we know."

James Turrell, from "Behind-the-eyes Seeing," James Turrell: A Retrospective

Incidentally on the days that we are visiting Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, James Turrell has opened up Roden Crater for $6500/person as a fund raising event. From M.H. Miller's Art News article:

"The cost to visit in May? First, there’s a $5,000 donation to the Skystone Foundation, Turrell’s nonprofit organization that supports the project. An additional $1,500 will cover a hotel room, a tour, dinner onsite, and breakfast the following morning. Not included in that cost, according to an application that must be filed to attend the trip, are: 'Airfare, personal or baggage insurance, meals other than mentioned above, laundry, valet, liquor (other than wine with dinner), room service or minibar charges, telephone calls, faxes or internet charges, pharmaceuticals, supplemental costs for (additional) single rooms and/or (additional) suites, and any other individual charges of a personal nature.' Twenty people will be let in per day, which means Turrell stands to raise about half a million dollars."

Let's hope that money is placed toward expediting the completion of this neverending project.

Jacinda Russell

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Marfa and Chinati

101 Spring Street, NYC, NY

Last week we discussed the artists Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and the events that took place at Marfa, and the Chinati Foundation. While talking about Judd we covered his early career in New York, his purchase and renovation of 101 Spring Street, and his move to the west. There was a heavy focus on how this move changed him and his work. His views on how art is displayed was discussed in detail.

We were particularly interested in his ideas on how art is informed by the place it is displayed and how art influences its surroundings. This has been one of the weeks that we have really felt a connection to our readings. Talking about how work is displayed has been a big part of our own art work lately and we enjoyed seeing where some of the alternatives to galleries and pedestals came from. A good portion of Judd’s work is very site specific and he did not life making work for galleries. He believed putting his art in a gallery took something very important away from it, the context. Judd strove to make an experience for his viewers.

101 Spring Street, NYC, NY

Dan Flavin was very similar to Judd in many of his ideas about art. Most of our discussion focussed on his work with light. We talked about how his work was, by nature, site specific as it features new planes made from light and shadow. The work automatically changed when it was moved to a new location. Both Judd and Flavin were involved in Marfa.

In a corner of western Texas, a small town of just under 2,000 people called Marfa sits. This was the site that Donald Judd chose for his public art project, which was to be larger than any museum or public art exhibit before. It was to be composed of over one hundred large-scale sculptures and several buildings over 350 acres. This enormous project was once funded by the Dia Art Foundation, although over time Judd’s demands became too much for the foundation and its funders, Heiner Friedrich and his wife Philippa de Menil Pelizzi Friedrich. Despite Judd’s objections, the Marfa Project became decentralized from the Dia Art Foundation, along with several other projects. The Chinati Foundation was established to carry on Judd’s ideas and ideals in installation, architecture, and connection to landscape.

Donald Judd, Freestanding works in concrete, Chinati Foundation, 1980-1984

We further discussed the artists and type of art that were prioritized by the Dia Art Foundation, and if we felt if it was an elitist organization/motive. We talked about the “defining movement” in the American nation, in reference to a quote Nicole pulled from the article. “The Art Museum of the Pecos…is what St. Peter’s was to the High Renaissance: a marriage of fully matured artistic vision with financial and cultural power, marking both the height of an empire and the beginning of its decline.”

Other topics we focused on were Judd’s disgust in displaying his work in museums, that his work and others “is often exhibited badly and always for short periods.” This was interesting to get the opinions of the art historians we have in class; that Judd should have been more particular and have initiative to express the needs of his artwork to curators and galleries. This idea proved interesting, especially vs. the ideas of the artists, especially those of the 3-D artists in class. Was Judd asking too much of curators, or was his work truly poorly displayed?

Richard Phillips, Playboy Marfa, 2013

To close the discussion, we talked about the works and exhibitions that have since been added to Marfa, such as Prada Marfa and Playboy Marfa. We talked about how these pieces, or in the Playboy Marfa, advertisements, have affected the surrounding areas and Marfa. These artworks differ greatly from much of the art that is presented at Marfa, and we were interested in the ideas behind them and how they currently appear. We went through more online articles, listened to a firsthand account of Marfa, and explored the Chinati Foundation website.

Lexi Musselman & Tracy Jarrett

Friday, March 13, 2015

"The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky" at the Met

Richard Throssel, Interior of the Best Indian Kitchen on the Crow Reservation, 1910 [image via]

One of the most comprehensive exhibitions of Native American Art is currently on view at the Met in NYC. There are over 130 pieces from 50 international collections, including many objects shipped to Europe in the 19th century and rarely seen in the US. Follow this link for an extensive inventory of the exhibition where you can see the ceremonial fan below:

Peyote Fan, c. 1945, Kiowa (golden eagle, parrot and macaw feathers) [image via]

or this Lakota valise...

Nellie Two Bear Gates (Mahpiya Bogawin, Gathering of Clouds Woman), 1903 [image via]

From Holland Cotter's review in the New York Times: "Painted robes, covered with figures and symbols and accessorized with leggings and gloves, became storyboards of oral history and epic adventure. One monumental example from the Branly collection, fittingly known as the Grand Robe, depicts, in more than a dozen episodes and with a cast of some 60 figures, the Homeric exploits of two Lakota warriors. There are debates over the gender of the artists of certain robes. But in general, paintings and drawings were done by men, and tanning, sewing and beadwork by women. And outstanding examples of beadwork, positioned throughout the show, glow with a kind of self-generated light."

The Grand Robe, Central Plains Tribe, c. 1800-1830 [image via]

Also included in the exhibition are silver gelatin prints from one of my favorite Native American artists, Horace Poolaw, who photographed his friends and family in a modern yet traditional Kiowa setting. His images are the antithesis of the clich├ęs we often associate with photographs of the same subject matter from that time period.

Horace Poolaw, Three Young Kiowas, 1928-1935 [image via]

Peter Schjeldahl's informative essay in The New Yorker offers comparisons to contemporary Native American artists that we will discuss at the end of the semester.

Here is Dana Claxton's four channel video, Rattle, 2003 [image via]. You can view the installation on her website where she describes this work as "a visual prayer attempting to create infinity."

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Gifts for Trading Land with White People, 1992 [image via]

From the Met's website: "Here, she has inscribed the image of a canoe, an icon of Native American culture and a key mode of transportation in the history of trade and crosscultural interaction, amid layers of newspaper clippings, photographs of Native people, and washes of paint. Suspended above is a selection of sports memorabilia, calling attention to the much-contested use of Native American names for teams and mascots—hats with logos, rubber tomahawks, and faux headdresses."

Wendy Red Star's Four Seasons are captivating self-portraits making fun of the idealizations of Native Americans throughout the history of photography. She incorporates plastic animals, Astroturf and murals of Western scenery resembling those one would find in an insurance office from decades past.

Wendy Red Star, Four Seasons (Spring), 2006

Wendy Red Star, Four Seasons (Fall), 2006

Comparing original (and functional) objects with contemporary counterparts is a highlight of this exhibition.

 Horse Mask, c. 1880, Assiniboine [image via]

Juanita Growing Thunder Fogarty, Horse Mask, 2008 [image via]

Man's shirt, c. 1830, possibly Blackfeet [image via]

Bently Spang, War Shirt #1 (From Modern War series), 1998 [image via]

In "Moving Pictures," Schjeldahl concludes: "What sinks in, as you absorb the show, is the spiritual spell of the Great Plains—an essence that will resonate with anyone who has spent time on the prairie. Standing out there, you are at once dwarfed to nearly nothing and made the dead center of everything that is. This inescapable paradox makes living sense of works that, whether drawn or carved or beaded or feathered, invariably broadcast qualities of painstaking, economical craft and jolts of resilient pride. There is a singleness to each of them, preserving the here and the now of its making by an individual who was an intimate of boundlessness, impelled often to move on with the maximum practicable speed. The enchantment of the prairie will be a pretty lonesome transcendence for most of us. (You get back in the car. Turn the key. Find a motel.) It hardly grants access to the subtleties of Plains Indian worship and philosophy, but it affords a vision that, once wholly theirs, is now perforce also ours."

Jacinda Russell

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Michael Heizer in the News

Michael Heizer, The City

If we had all the time in the world to read articles for this class, I would have assigned Michael Kimmelman's "Art's Last, Lonely Cowboy" first published in The New York Times in 2005. The focus is Michael Heizer's The City, one of the largest sculptures ever built at 1.25 miles long and .25 miles wide. As Kimmelman writes, "This is a story about a man, his dream and a railroad. Everything in it is outsize, including the landscape. It's otherwise a familiar Western saga, pitting a brooding, determined loner against big, bad Washington, except that in this case the hero's personality is at least as radioactive as the train barreling toward him."  It is highly recommendable for anyone interested in Heizer's work and those who will be visiting Double Negative in May.

Michael Heizer, The City

On 5th March 2015, The New York Times reported: "Michael Heizer rarely leaves his 'City,' the colossal work of land art he has been constructing with heavy machinery from earth, rock and concrete since 1972 in the Nevada desert, where he lives. But Mr. Heizer, now 70, is to return to the urban fray for his first substantial gallery exhibition of monumental sculpture in more than two decades, opening on May 9 at Gagosian Gallery on West 24th Street in Chelsea and commanding more than 9,000 square feet of floor space." Gagosian states that it will be an "eye opener."

Stay tuned...

Jacinda Russell