A pioneer of earthworks and public art, Nancy Holt also worked in sculpture, installation, film, video, and photography for over 30 years. She is best known for her large-scale environmental sculptural works, including “Sun Tunnels” in Northern Utah and “Dark Star Park” in Virginia. Also in the ‘70s, Holt made a series of pioneering film and video works. Holt’s early videos, explore perception and memory through experiments with point of view and process.
By Dimitris Lempesis
Photo: Parafin Gallery Archive
in 1969, Nancy Holt, after her return from England, where she spend one month traveling together with her husband, Robert Smithson, began work on her first T-shaped “Locator”, In 1972, Nancy Holt installed a site-specific work, “Missoula Ranch Locators: Vision Encompassed” , The work had a simple premise. Eight eye-level “Locators” (galvanized steel pipes attached to metal stands), placed on the points of the compass in a large circle, gave viewers the experience of directing their sight to specific locations on the landscape, blotting out all other features. Eventually, the land where the work was installed was sold, and it was taken down. In 2012, 40 years from this installation, Nancy Holt was given her first site-specific work made in France. It was an opportunity to reenvision the project in the campus garden of the University of Avignon in France, as part of the exhibition “Geniuses of the Place: Land and Environmental Art”. The permanent installation, called “Avignon Locators”, 8 “Locators” set in specific compass directions in alignment with the North Star, bringing an ancient and ubiquitous practice of orienting terrestrial structures by astronomic observance into the idiom of contemporary, interactive sculpture. The exhibition at Parafin Gallery was conceived in discussion with the artist before her death in 2014. It includes a selected group of “Locators” alongside preparatory drawings and related photographic pieces, including some works which have never been exhibited. Sometimes the view through each “Locator” is perfectly aligned with a ‘loci’, an object in the space or a shape painted on the wall. On other occasions the viewer’s gaze is directed at a mirror to give the experience of “Seeing oneself seeing”. Nonetheless, within her oeuvre the “Locators” are crucially important. The innovations and experimentation that they embody lead directly to Holt’s iconic Land Art work “Sun Tunnels” and inform us for many of her groundbreaking public commissions of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Info: Locators, Parafin Gallery, 18 Woodstock Street, London, Duration: 9/10-21/11/15, Days & Hours: Tue-Fri 10:00-18:00, Sat 12:00-17:00, www.parafin.co.uk