Gregory Botts: “The Madrid Group” at David Richard Gallery
In mountain towns throughout the West, straw-hatted plein air painters pull over at scenic vistas or at the base of dramatic mountain-scapes, hatches of their Subarus and SUVs pitched while they interpret land on canvas. The work, which, to borrow a phrase from Matthew Coolidge, amounts to little more than “advertisements for nature,” shows up in airports, hotels, and trophy homes—places where a pleasant, agreeable aesthetic are particularly desirable.
Report: Santa Fe
Eventually, everything we know, love and hate will be absorbed by time. And, yet, we scurry about as if our accomplishments actually matter; we strive to understand, foremost, why we are here and for such a short time. While all ephemeral art might be said to express this notion on some level, the project “Temporary Installations Made for the Environment” has the limitations of time specifically in mind. A joint venture between the Navajo Nation Museum and the state- run New Mexico Arts, “TIME” began in 2012 with a handful of artists on the Navajo Nation, but it became instantly international, in both scope and acclaim, when the Chinese artist and noted rebel Ai Weiwei signed up to work with Navajo artist Bert Benally, after Benally visited Ai’s compound in China to make his petition, among countless others, seeking Ai’s help. “Ai Weiwei is on top of the world,” says Benally, who is also an elementary school art teacher, in a 14-minute documentary on the installation. “That’s the level that Navajos are, and I think that once the project’s done, the world will know that that level of work exists here in the Navajo.”
Native American Artists Take Control of their Market
Brian Frejo, “Earthlodge – A New Old Way of Life”
Not often, when a popular board member leaves an arts organization, do constituents get riled enough to do something about it, other than perhaps grumble on Facebook. However, John Torres Nez’s resignation from the Southwestern Association of Indian Art (SWAIA) in April tapped a well of discontent that had been bubbling for a while: Native artists were unhappy with Native art markets run by non-Natives. Nez’s departure set off a quick succession of events that led to the creation of the Indigenous Fine Art Market (IFAM). The all Native-run event has its debut August 21–23 in the Santa Fe Farmers Market building in the Railyard District. It’s the same week that SWAIA hosts its annual “Indian Market” in Santa Fe’s historic downtown.
Lines Across the Land
SITE Santa Fe launches its three-part, “transregional” Americas-focused series in dramatic fashion, with examinations of the earth.
The Soniferous Æther of The Land Beyond The Land Beyond
Film installation, 10:18 minutes
Photo: courtesy of the artist
Life cannot exist without water. Complex, expensive systems of haulage, drainage and storage have been devised to confront the immediacy of this fact in the desert states—so too have bureaucratic networks of competing interests. Artist Inigo Manglano-Ovalle responds to these conditions through one of the oldest and simplest forms of water reclamation: he digs a well. He carves it on land owned by the Santa Clara Pueblo, a Native American reservation north of Santa Fe, then donates it to the tribe. In truth, the act took some negotiation with tribal government, but, importantly, only tribal members will have access. The water belongs to them.
Land Art Pioneer: Nancy Holt
”We stepped off the plane into the vastness of the desert. I had an overwhelming experience of my inner landscape and the outer landscape being identical.”
— Nancy Holt, in “Nancy Holt: Sightlines”
In the year before Land Art pioneer Nancy Holt died, she had finished a new edit of her film about Robert Smithson’s Amarillo Ramp (1973), and had witnessed the first national retrospective of her work. She also left a handful of projects incomplete, and acres of land where new ideas might have been expressed. This combined sense of wholeness and the fragmentary is—for an artist influenced early on by conceptualism and later by Buddhism—part of the enduring framework for Holt’s work, and her legacy to the artists who follow her.
Report: New Media New Mexico
A joint project to explore and advance new media art begins this summer in Northern New Mexico. Uniting the efforts of Albuquerque’s 516 ARTS and Santa Fe’s Parallel Studios, the aptly named “New Media New Mexico” launches with 516’s exhibition-centered “Digital Latin America” and Parallel’s annual festival of new media, “Currents 2014.”
On the Scene: Land of Entrapment
In northern New Mexico, the landscape determines all
Back in 2000, just before the members of FUSION Theatre Company banded under that name in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the nascent production team staged a performance of Wakefield Mystery Cycle’s “The Crucifixion.” After one week of rehearsals, they opened the piece in Cerrillos, an incorporated village of less than 300 people in Santa Fe County. The site was a burned-out shell of a New Deal-era grade school with a small gymnasium where Georgia O’Keeffe roller-skated as a kid. Sculptor Jesus Morales had gutted the building, tearing out the roof and digging an amphitheater into the foundation.
One night, while the cast of “The Crucifixion” performed the Stations of the Cross, the Jesus character rose to his place above the audience and took his final breath when a flock of swallows burst into the building, settling into nests they’d assembled in the walls. A pink and violet New Mexico sunset filled the sky.
“It was a stunningly beautiful, truly New Mexican life moment,” says FUSION executive director Dennis Gromelski.
Q&A: Fusebox Festival Director Ron Berry
Austin’s Fusebox Festival will begin with a sort of anti-elegy, a zombie score. “Mozart Requiem Undead”—a re-imagining of Mozart’s “Requiem” comprising new compositions by indie artists including Glenn Kotche (Wilco), Caroline Shaw, DJ Spooky, Justin Sherburn (Okkervil River) and Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma)—will be performed by a full orchestra and a 150-person choir. Graham Reynolds and Peter Stopschinski of Golden Hornet Project will lead the piece outside the French Legation Museum.
The directors call Fusebox a “hybrid art festival,” because it plays host to music, theater, performance art, documentaries, artist talks and round-table discussions. Additionally, Executive Director Ron Berry has begun referring to it as a “festival about festivals,” i.e., an opportunity to measure the impact of a festival on it host community, especially when that community is as festival-happy as Austin.
The performance of “Mozart Requiem Undead” will launch the 10th anniversary installment of the two-week festival (April 16-27 at venues throughout the capital), as well as a new Fusebox initiative called “Free Range Art.” That’s a branded way of saying that all festival events are free. Registration and the schedule are available online at fuseboxfestival.com.
The Observer caught up with Berry to find out why Austin needs a hybrid art festival, what Fusebox can teach us about festivals in general, and why, after a decade, Fusebox has moved to a free model.
High Desert Test Sites
Various venues, Arizona, California & New Mexico, USA
My first impression of High Desert Test Sites (HDTS) is decidedly negative. Los Angeles hipsters in designer boots, high-waisted shorts and sunhats scramble up a desert wash in Joshua Tree, California to view Desert Appliqué by Léa Donnan (all works 2013). The nomadic settlement of abandoned crochet blankets is beautiful and colourful, if static in its nostalgia for homesteading and American craft culture. But viewers leave footprints up the wash, damaging flora. I struggle with any artistic statement that holds the potential to destroy that which it attempts to celebrate. Yet, HDTS teeters on this precipice – one on side awareness, on the other exploitation, the hope of participation risks the cynicism of tourism. These are contradictions that appear within the 2013 itinerary, in the locations as well as the projects. Over the course of the event, I come to view HDTS itself as the work, testing the limitations of community and individual effort, which are essential limitations of art in the world at-large.