Thursday, May 28, 2009

Diorama is in Full Swing: Meet the Players - Chet, Mary, Hannah, and Jacinda

The first meeting went really well (I have to remember to bring a camera to document this process). We have a materials list, a calendar, and a plan!

Chet Geiselman: Sculptor, consultant, "Preparator," and man who remembered he had a camera on his computer to take a group photograph.

Mary Barczak: Recent photo graduate, mask maker, and our assistant who knows more about miniatures than any of us (all dressed up for her hot date).

Hannah Barnes: Painter, "nesting box" recipient, and killer graph drawer showing off the plan.

Yours truly: Super excited because she managed to talk some of her favorite people in Muncie to collaborate with her on this aspect of the project.

Materials to be purchased this weekend and the "nesting boxes" will be started on Monday.

23 Days and Counting: "Amarillo Ramp"

Amarillo Ramp,

Amarillo Ramp, 1994

Date Unknown

Amarillo Ramp is reserved! "LBK" AKA Long Board Kid (see O'Brien's text below = this should be entertaining) will be driving us there on 7th July. This earthwork has more meaning to me because Smithson died while working on it than the object itself. My expectations are minimal but still feel it is an important piece to see.

Here is some more information from my notes:

Robert Smithson worked on the 396 foot long Amarillo Ramp, a curved slowly rising jetty done in Amarillo, Texas in 1973. The jetty which rose to a maximum height of 12 feet, formed an open circle 150 feet in diameter and was made from red shale and earth. When it was first built, the area was submerged in a lake. Smithson and Nancy Holt placed posts in the lake and eventually drained it to create the work.

Seen initially from above as it is approached, this work changes significantly upon being entered. By walking upon it, the viewer is aware of his/her constantly changing relationship to the surroundings and heightened sense of the temperature, light, and sounds of nature. The sculpture is a partial circle built on a dry lake bed in an area rich in flint. The color of the earth changes throughout the day.

The water level had risen and the stakes were almost submerged so it was necessary to drain the lake. They emptied the lake and later refilled it – though it was photographed when the lake was dry. Again as the Jetty, a dump truck backed out onto the ramp and continually deposited piles of earth that its wheels flattened out. The rock embankment is about ten feet across and at the top of the surface, sloped down on each side and is edged with boulders.

Smithson used a symbol associated with pre-modern religion that shows a movement or transition between states of being. The ouroboros, a motif that appears in the imagery of the medieval alchemy, suggests a cyclical pattern as in an eternal return to a beginning, followed by growth, death, and again rebirth.

I just remembered while reading this that Stanley Marsh commissioned this work in addition to that "other" sculpture we are seeing in Amarillo by Ant Farm:

Titus O'Brien wrote this for Glasstire last August. It's very informative about what to expect (= not much from the artwork and a lot from the people who will take us there). Highlights from his text follow:

"I managed to set up a meeting with Stanley Marsh 3 and his assistant, a guy going by some serial-killer sounding moniker that I didn't quite catch, who was going to take me to Robert Smithson's Amarillo Ramp. I knew generally of Marsh by his association with Cadillac Ranch and the Ant Farm guys, Smithson and more vaguely as an art collector and all-around Texan eccentric. He certainly lived up to the rep.

"Marsh's offices occupy an entire floor in Amarillo's lone skyscraper, the 30-story Chase bank tower. The elevator opens up to a beat-up children's romper room full of giant, dirty, brightly colored vinyl shapes, and some bad Gorky and Pollock copies. I wandered into a neighboring room, known as "The Office." Three wasted-looking twenty-something art dudes were sprawled out amidst a scene of total destruction, filth and trashed/trash art, watching (what else?) "A Clockwork Orange." It looked like every stoner art school apartment I ever saw, or in a couple cases, lived in.

"I was greeted by a slow-to-rise, elf-like scrawny blond wastrel who had the distinct features of a guy who needs to eat more food and less drugs. LBK, as he's known, later admitted to having been on a bit of bender the night before ("a bit of crack and dirty speed" was the descrip of his prescrip), but though sleepless, for the next few hours he cheerfully, if a bit self-obsessively, acted as my tour guide of Marshville. I only wished he'd stop inserting himself into every picture I was trying to take.

"We left the Chase building and walked across the street to LBK's studio, a graffiti covered, disused old auto shop devoid of much production. I listened to the ongoing ballad of LBK throughout the day: how he was essentially a runaway street punk drawn into Marsh's orbit, who with a group of similarly self-mythologizing kids, generally raise hell in Amarillo, periodically finding themselves in jail only to be bailed out by Marsh. Marsh keeps LBK on salary, and having him act as caretaker and general PR person seems like a decision in keeping with a somewhat questionable MO.

"We drove out to the Floating Mesa, which in keeping with the general vibe, from a dozen miles away was visibly rusting. Then we drove out to the Ramp. It's remote, a dozen miles or more out deep into ranch land on dirt roads. It was real Texas out there, and you can see what must have been the allure for Smithson. I was interested to hear the story behind its creation, and how the site had been converted from an old watering hole. The ramp itself sits down in a small basin, and you come upon it from above. There had been recent rains, and the scrub was vivid green against the red soil. The sky was overcast, making everything appear both closer and more sharply delineated.

"It was frankly sort of sad, and surprisingly small. Once over 20 feet tall at its high point, it seemed no more than ten now, a worn down, weed covered, neglected berm of dirt you'd just mistake for an old watering trough dam. A phantom. In itself that's ok. Smithson was all about entropy. And he of course never saw the thing constructed anyway, having famously lost his life surveying the land by air and crashing a few hundred feet from the site. Marsh claims Smithson's wife Nancy Holt finished it with help from Richard Serra, though others dispute Serra's involvement. You can almost envision what Smithson was after; descending the slope to the ramp, watching it rise against the flat background and distant mesas, ascending its slow spiraling rise...almost.

"Whatever the experience might once have been, now you just think, in a few more years this thing will be gone. It's almost to the stage where it looks like one good prairie thunderstorm could wash it away forever. The real kicker is that LBK has painted dozens of stones on and around it, large and small, a shocking fluorescent green. He rambled about painting fire hydrants in town the same green, and weaving some mythic yarn about him finding the last Smithson diary and channeling Smithson's ghost or something, and with the influence of drugs and advent of the Age of Narcissism he feels he has every right to "engage" Smithson's final work in dialogue as peer. Or to just deface it -- you be the judge. Hey, Stanley Marsh 3 doesn't care; why should you? All those artists and nosy curators from Dia are just full of shit anyway, right? I wonder what all the other pilgrimistas think about this tour. I assume mine wasn't all that exceptional. LBK said folks come fairly often, and he enjoys messing with them."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

25 Days to Go: Nancy Holt's "Sun Tunnels" (Four Concrete Tubes Followed by a Plastic One)

Hey guess what Nancy? We are going to be visiting Sun Tunnels two days after the Summer Soltice. Do you think the artwork will still be close enough to align with the sun? We should aim for late afternoon/early evening just in case.

Here are the directions on how to get there (though I think I will remember this one well enough).

I will look forward to discussing what you think of this piece as I cannot help but feel it is the most inferior of the group. I am hoping my second trip proves me wrong especially if we see it close to the time of year and day that it is supposed to be viewed. I do like the idea of "tricksters" visiting these earthworks and simulating the sun via car headlights, etc. if the sun's alignment does not work to our advantage.

After spending a couple hours on the phone tonight discussing hotels and the budget for this three week extravaganza, I continue to be excited about this tube at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas:

(Image courtesy of Five Hundy).

26 Days to Go: Diorama, Nesting Boxes, & Even More on "Spiral Jetty"

Hannah and I brainstormed ideas on the diorama. There is a meeting scheduled for Thursday to go over the materials and organize the calendar. Chet and Mary will be helping us create the case (modeled on Joseph Beuys's vitrines and wanting it to be eye level). The goal is to have the outside built and the topography in place before I leave on the 21st June.

I am also investigating the idea of building "nesting boxes" to encase parts of the artwork that I send back. They will have a direct relationship to the form of the diorama.

While flipping through my notebook, I came across something I hadn't seen in a very long time... a tiny photograph of Vik Muniz hovering over his piece Brooklyn, New York, from 1998.

Directions to Spiral Jetty.

I also ran across the highlights from Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty text from 1972 that related directly to the landscape I first saw during the 2005 visit. They are below interspersed with some more versions of the artwork.

"As we traveled, the valley spread into an uncanny immensity unlike the other landscape we had seen...Old piers were left high and dry.... The mere sight of the trapped fragments of junk and waste transported one into a world of modern prehistory..."

"Two dilapidated shacks looked over a tired group of oil rigs... Pumps coated with black stickiness rusted in the corrosive air.... The site gave evidence of a succession of man-made systems mined in abandoned hopes."

"Under shallow pinkish water is a network of mud cracks supporting the jigsaw puzzle that comprises the salt flats.... Size determines an object but scale determines art.... On the slopes of Rozel Point I closed my eyes, and the sun burned crimson through the lids.... My movie would end in sunstroke...."

The "Uniform" - What Smithson, Holt, Heizer, & Turrell Wore When Creating These Works

Finding what Robert Smithson wore was really easy. He doesn't look like he belongs in this space at all. There are two outfits (what do you think about combining them both or one take the role of the waiters and the other the black "I'm a NY artist" look?).

Smithson with Richard Serra, 1970

Smithson and the Construction of Spiral Jetty, 1970

Smithson and his waiters (I call, "Not It" on wearing this one)

I cannot find anything (as of yet) on what Nancy Holt wore. I surmise that this is her in the views of Sun Tunnels but cannot be certain. Whatever she is wearing, she is NOT trying to be a cowgirl or cowboy for that matter.

This is the Nancy Holt we will not be emulating:

Heizer is also easy to find. Here he is with Robert Smithson in Nevada in 1968 (I am counting on finding a white cowboy hat). Here's a more recent headshot.

And James Turrell... Oh! The black cowboy ensemble! Maybe you can buy the white gear and I'll buy the black and we'll really be covering a lot of territory.

What is so odd is that I really want them to be wearing something like in Richard Prince's Untitled Cowboys photograph from 2003. Dream on.

Of course we can always dump the whole idea and go looking like this:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

28 days to go: Michael Heizer's "Double Negative"

I am spending the afternoon researching Michael Heizer's Double Negative. The most important information I've found is how to get there!

By descending steep ramps at the ends of the trenches, visitors can enter a long, narrow lane that reveals a view across the ravine to the trench on the opposite side. Heizer stipulates that we should spent one whole day with the sculpture in order to understand it: to grasp its size, surfaces, spatial structure, and transformation in light and shadow. Bring lots of water and snake repellent. It's going to be the trip's #1 scorcher.

Construction of the SW cut from the NE Cut, December 1969

Michael Heizer: "It is interesting to build a sculpture that attempts to create an atmosphere of awe. Small works are said to do this but it is not my experience. Immense, architecturally sized sculpture creates both the object and the atmosphere. Awe is a state of mind equivalent to a religious experience. I think if people feel commitment they feel something has been transcended. To create a transcendent work of art means to go past everything."

Construction of the SW cut from the NE Cut, December 1969 (2 weeks later)

From an essay entitled “Rend(er)ing” by Mark C. Taylor:
Edmond Jab├Ęs once stated: “You do not go into the desert to find identity but to lose it, to lose your personality, to become anonymous. You make yourself the void. You become silence. It is very hard to live with silence. The real silence is death and this is terrible. It is very hard in the desert. You must become more silent than the silence around you. And then something extraordinary happens: you hear silence speak.”

Looking toward the SW Cut, 1970

Mark C. Taylor: “To reach Double Negative, it is necessary to go past everything. The drive from Las Vegas to Overton passes through 80 miles of desert. The mineral landscape appears more stark and cruel from the road than from the air. This desert is unforgiving. The height of Mormon Mesa looms larger when driving up the twisting and turning red dirt road that leads to its top. From ground level, the barrenness of the earth’s surface is violated not only by scrub sage but also by tracks of errant vehicles. Even a person who knows his way gets lost in this terrain. We roamed for a long time but could not find Double Negative…. With darkness approaching, our search became more agitated. We drove ever closer to the mesa’s precipitous edge. At every turn, the cut seemed to appear. But as we drew near, the illusion of the cut’s presence was broken and the mirage lifted. Turning the truck around to make a final sweep, the cut or cuts unexpectedly opened in front of us.”

Looking toward the SW Cut, 1986

“To enter the tear, I had to descend the steep and uneven slope of the rent earth. Only beneath ground level did the stunning proportions of this extraordinary work clearly emerge…. From the bottom of the cut, the precision of the lines, surfaces, and planes dissolves. The work is eroding. It’s walls crumbling and its floor littered with refuse and debris from ancient eons, the Negative is a constantly changing ruin. This work of art was not constructed to escape time but to embed us in it ever more deeply. As I passed below the surface, I realized the profound truth of what I had long suspected: to dig down is go back… back through layers and layers of space and time to an arche that is, perhaps, “older” than the beginning of our world, the world, any world.”

Inside Walls of the NE Cut, 1969

“With night drawing near, I lingered in the Negative. I picked up a fragment from the debris in the midst of the tear. It was a remarkable object or assemblage of objects. Ancient, yet fragile, terribly fragile. Its shape, almost pyramidal; its size no bigger than the palm of my hand; its colors multiple. Pink, rose, brown, amber, umber, lavender, rust, red, yellow, orange, black, white, and charcoal – pebbles and crystals held together by sand strong enough to withstand the shifting winds of time and weak enough to crumble when touched. It would be hard to imagine a more intricate or more successful work of art.”

East Wall of the SW Cut, 1970

“Lost in reflection, the silence that surrounded me was suddenly shattered. At first, I thought a violent desert storm had erupted. The walls of the rift shook. Sand, stones, and gravel slid to the bottom of the Negative and beyond to the canyon far below. Startled, I turned toward the distant mountains. Framed by the trembling walls of Double Negative, I caught a fleeting glimpse of two fighter bombers in mock combat, disappearing over the horizon. As the deafening noise of the planes waned, Heizer’s words echoed in my ears. ‘We live in a schizophrenic period. We’re living in a world that’s technological and primordial simultaneously. I guess the idea is to make art that reflects this premise.’”

Two views of Double Negative from 2007

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Countdown Begins...31 Days Prior to Departure

The list of projects we are going to create and what needs to be done to achieve this:

• Hotel Art artist's book like the one that is given out at the Joule in Dallas (must feature artwork in the bedroom as well as the art closest to any pool entry).
• Hotel Towel Origami artist's book (ode to Kelli's birthday present) focusing on creating objects based on the surrounding landscape.

• Telephone pole (cowboys, cowgirls and Indians and burger diners) artist's book.
• Geodome Artist's book - yes Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels look like several geodomes from a distance.
• Due to the large number of artist's books/booklets, consider creating a collection of volumes.
• Professional Level Rock Paper Scissors game instructions and examples.
• Road trip game after Kelli and Betsy (to be revealed later because it's so damn humorous I don't want to give it away).
• Revisit John Divola's series Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert.

• Map making conversations like the one started at Robert Morris's piece last year.
• Purchase a diving board and strap it to the top of the rental car.
• Make a collection of small boxes to send parts of each earthwork back to create the diorama.
• Bury an object at each earthwork (photograph prior to leaving).
• Research what else other artists were wearing when building these pieces (1970s cowboy outfits?). Is Western gear going to be our "uniform?"
• Pack the pink wig or else.
• Buy a styrofoam cooler in Northern Arizona and fill it with beer to deliver to the workers at Roden Crater (= BRIBE).
• Acquire graffiti removal equipment for Sun Tunnels.
• Check out what exhibition is up at CLUI and refer to their database.
• Caffeinol darkroom tests.
• Binocs, buy a compass and some water bottles.
• Get directions to all these remote locations and reserve some hotel rooms.
• Start the blog countdown.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Why not revert to the past rather than the present?

Anselm Kiefer's Strike, 1985

A thought: make all the earthworks photographs from Summer 2009 look as if they were photographed 100 years ago = an outright lie, a Vik Muniz Clayton Days, an entirely new way of viewing these places that didn't occur to me until standing in front of an Anselm Kiefer print at the Met this week. Why not? They still reference time passing and place and will involve one of my most favorite things about photography - manipulation of reality.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I've had visions of myself as a man on this road trip. The one who drives, gets the gas, farts and burps. And it never felt right, I'm not really up for three weeks of burping and farting and I have a feeling that you would never have agreed to take a road trip with me much less do it again had I decided upon to do this as a three week performance. 

Then I thought of myself creating these artists alter egos, perhaps giving tours of Heizer's, City or Turrell's, Roten Crater. And I may still do something like this (even if it is just for you, consider it a private tour) - BUT - I kept seeing Heizer and Turrell as these cowboys in all their photo shoots. 

And could not help but think of Richard Prince 
(flash back to road trip no. 001.) I believe that show was at the Walker? But the main idea here is the parallels between what Prince was doing in his photographs and how I feel it relates to these earthworks and these celeb. artist and (I won't come close to denying my obsessions as a fan of either celebs or artists). Combined with the history of western landscape painting as propaganda. I'm in love! And somehow all these things start clicking together even if they are in my own minds map of images and general understandings. SO - I needed to purchase boots and a hat before my departure. Jacinda, I hope you can spot me, I'm planning on full gear the first day. I have yet to decide if it will be the dirty cowboy look or a cross between Tammy Faye meets boots and fringe. I love fringe!! (Misha Barton in boots with fringe.)