Art Fairs

Parafin will exhibit a single major 60-part photographic work by Nancy Holt, Western Graveyards (1968), for the first time in the USA at Frieze New York.

 

Western Graveyards is a quasi-anthropological inventory of burial grounds in Virginia City, Nevada and Lone Pine, California. The work was made in 1968 during Holt’s formative and revelat ory first trip west with Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, at a seminal moment for the development of Land and Conceptual Art in the US. Holt was beginning to use the camera as a tool for making art and, on that trip, began for the first time to think about focussing her work on landscape. These parallel impulses reached their fullest expression in this ambitious work.

 

The work reflects her ongoing interest in human interventions in the landscape:

 

‘I became fascinated by the graves in the West because they were contained spaces, often with fences surrounding them. They reflect how people thought about space out West; their last desire was to delineate a little plot of their own because there was s o much vastness.’

 

Western Graveyards is thus about land, earth, ownership, history and mortality. Yet Holt’s commentary only points to one layer of meaning in what is a complex work: it is striking, for example, that the graves bear a profound formal similarity to (degraded) Minimalist sculpture, a fact emphasized by the serial nature of the project. This is a formal as well as a social investigation. The work also echoes Robert Smithson’s interest in entropy.

 

Holt’s interest in physical space and geographical specificity was a key concern throughout her work. Within her oeuvre Western Graveyards is a key work, yet has never been exhibited in its entirety in the US. Indeed, it has only been exhibited once, in London in 2012.

 

 

Further reading:

 

 

 

© Parafin Ltd. 2016