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Art Fairs — 2022

American artist Nancy Holt (1938–2014) was a key member of the Earth, Land, and Conceptual art movements and a pioneer of public art, site-specific installation and moving image work. While she worked in a diverse range of media, photography was central to her practice. Her overriding theme was vision; the phenomena of sight, how we look and how we become conscious of our looking. For Holt the camera was a tool that allowed her not only to record objects, people and places, but – in a conceptual leap – to also record the act of seeing and recording.


In the mid 1960s Holt worked as an assistant literary editor at the magazine Harper’s Bazaar and her first art works, made in 1966, were concrete poems and text-based works of art. Soon after she also began to experiment with photography. These important early works announce many themes that would continue to preoccupy her as she developed her major works in the landscape: sight, site, systems, place and geography.


This presentation explores Holt’s use of serial imagery in ‘composite’ works such as Concrete Visions (1967) and Views Through A Sand Dune (1972), which documents an important early landscape intervention, and works in which Holt ‘choreographed’ collaborators such as Robert Smithson and Joan Jonas.


California Sun Signs (1972), a major multi-part work, comprises a series of photographs documenting the many signs incorporating the word ‘sun’ that Holt drove past as she travelled through California in 1972 to the Mojave Desert. California Sun Signs is both a conceptual project and a photographic document that speaks to the culture of the land through which she is travelling. Given her preoccupation with the sun in landmark works such as Sun Tunnels (1973–76), Annual Ring (1980–81), Dark Star Park (1979–84) and Solar Rotary (1995), Holt’s focus on the word ‘sun’ in this work is both playful and prescient.

The Armory Show

Nancy Holt: Photoworks 1962–1972

9 – 11 September 2022


Selected Works

Nancy Holt


Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Nancy Holt (1938–2014) grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Tufts University, where she majored in biology. In 1963 she married Robert Smithson (1938–1973). Holt is known for her earthworks, public sculpture and installation work, in particular her large-scale environmental works Sun Tunnels (1973–76, Great Basin Desert, Utah) and Dark Star Park (1970–84, Arlington County, Virginia). Her public sculptures are permanently installed in locations across Europe and North America. In 2018 Sun Tunnels was acquired by Dia Art Foundation, with the support of Holt/Smithson Foundation.


A pioneer of site-specific installation and the moving image, Holt recalibrated the limits of art. She expanded the places where art could be found and embraced the new media of her time. Across five decades she asked questions about how we might understand our place in the world, investigating perception, systems, and place. Holt’s rich artistic output spanned concrete poetry, audioworks, film and video, photography, slideworks, ephemeral gestures, drawings, room-sized installations, earthworks, artists’ books, and public sculpture commissions.


Holt’s work is currently the subject of ‘Inside/Outside’, a major survey exhibition at Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden, which will be shown at MACBA, Barcelona, in 2023. Notable recent exhibitions include ‘Nancy Holt: Between Heaven and Earth’, Western Washington University (2022), ‘Nancy Holt: Massachusetts’, University Art Gallery, UMASS, Dartmouth (2021), ‘Light and Language’, Lismore Castle Arts, Ireland (2021), ‘Points of View’, Parafin, London (2020), Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City (2020) and Dia: Chelsea, New York (2018). In 2010-12 the retrospective exhibition ‘Nancy Holt: Sightlines’ travelled from Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York to venues in Karlsruhe, Boston, Chicago, Santa Fe, and Salt Lake City, accompanied by a monograph by Alena J Williams (University of California Press).


In 2012 Nancy Holt was made a Chevalier of the of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government. In 2013 she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center in New York. Holt received five National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two New York Creative Artist Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Florida, Tampa.


© Parafin Ltd 2021