“I prefer views that are expansive,” wrote Robert Smithson (1938-1973). “One must be concerned not only with the landscape itself, but how one looks at it — the view is very important.”
The sculptor and land artist may be associated with Western vistas, but Smithson always paid keen attention to the frames we place around them. After all, a human encounter with something monumental must yield portable souvenirs: a photograph, a pebble, or a fragment of a memory. In Bigger Than This Room, historical and contemporary artists present objects that intend to explore and challenge the legacy of land art of the American West.
Works by major land artists such as Charles Ross and Robert Smithson are on view, along with documentation of Ross’s “Star Axis” (1971–ongoing) by photographer Edward Ranney. Ranney has photographed the construction of “Star Axis” each year since 1973. His imagery offers gritty views of the monumental effort, intending to highlight the intimacy of the towering artwork’s narrow passages and stairwells.
The exhibition’s scope expands as young artists, architects, writers, and curators enter the conversation. Artists Ruben Olguin and Diego Medina sculpt works from adobe and other natural materials, documenting the present-day impacts of colonial building projects. French artist Lucie Laflorentie cores and stacks earth to create self-conscious mini monuments.
SITE Spread awardee Mira Burack presents a table of ephemera from a forthcoming earthwork that gently transforms a small plot of New Mexico earth into a sleeping hut. The piece will reference Burack’s Jewish heritage while acknowledging still-visible industrial scarring on a nearby mountainside. Architect Gregory Waits offers his proposal for a monument to Blackdom, New Mexico, an early 20th-century boomtown that was the state’s first all-Black community. “These latter works are still dreams in someone’s head, and if they do come to fruition they will stand apart from existing land artworks in crucial ways,” says curator Marissa Fassano.
To learn more about this exhibition, visit formandconcept.center.