Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

We had the fortune of being alone with this work for ten minutes. We would never have predicted this after seeing a constant half dozen cars at any given time. It was, after all, the only artwork featured as a landmark on our road atlas. Families from all over the globe were stopping to pose in front of the spray painted row of cars. Litter was found everywhere: spray can tops, children's shoes, bottle rocket parts, and popped balloons.

The most disturbing part of viewing this work was seeing how far it had deviated from the Ant Farm's original intent. They chose ten different Cadillac models that represented a noticeable change in style but that was hardly dominate in the sculpture's current state. Ant Farm thought that the hubcaps might be stolen so they were the only parts welded down but car doors were ripped off, seats were removed leaving the springs on the ground, and the bodies of several were torn as if someone tried very hard to bring a piece home but ultimately could not, leaving it to flop around in the wind. The gaping holes are obvious reminders of what was missing from the cars, not a comparison of their differences.

The spray paint was the most predominate and fascinating element. Writing covered the dirt path leading up to the cars, the barbed wire fence along the roadside, the entry way fence underneath the "no graffiti" sign. Shelley got a lot of attention with several "I love you's" written over most of the cars.

The sheer amount of trash at Cadillac Ranch is just an extension of the state of the 12th floor Office and shed where the Ant Farm's JFK recreation car was kept. It is amazing how the man who commissioned this artwork has even more power than the artists that created it - down to the name (Stanley Marsh's Cadillac Ranch) and the state in which it is allowed to deteriorate. He brings up questions about the relationship between artists and their patrons and also how the artwork should be maintained and respected in comparison to foundations and institutions owning the work.


Shannon said...

Nancy's tassel shirt is epic. I've always dreamed of having my car buried at Cadillac Ranch. :)

j. russell said...

Shannon - Your comment reminds me so much of this:

"The artist Edward Kienholz's last piece was his burial, which took place at a hunting cabin he owned on top of a mountain in Hope, Idaho, in 1994. He had died of a heart attack at age 65, and now his corpulent, embalmed body was wedged into the front seat of a brown 1940 Packard coupe. There was a dollar and a deck of cards in his pocket, a bottle of 1931 Chianti beside him and the ashes of his dog Smash in the back. He was set for the afterlife. To the whine of bagpipes, the Packard, steered by his widow Nancy Reddin Kienholz, rolled like a funeral barge into the big hole. All in all, it was the most Egyptian funeral ever held in Idaho."