Within Introduction to Sculpture, we were asked to present a PowerPoint to the group about a contemporary sculptor, looking at 6 – 10 artworks of theirs. I chose Nancy Holt, who is known for her large scale and public sculptures.
The PowerPoint used, can be found here; Nancy Holt – Artist Presentation.
Nancy Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1938. Her father was a chemical engineer, her mother was a homemaker and she graduated from Tufts University in 1960 as a biology major. Holt moved to New York and worked alongside Michael Heizer, Carl Andre, Eva Hesse, Richard Serra and her husband, Robert Smithson.
Holt was a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements, and helped to develop unique aesthetic of perception. This enables visitors to her sites to engage with the landscape in new and challenging ways. Working in many mediums, she was a pioneer of site-specific installation and film and video work.
There was an exploration and revision of the ways people viewed the world around them, and Holt wanted to make it simpler –
“I wanted to bring the vast space of the desert back to human scale. I had no desire to make a megalithic monument. The panoramic view of the landscape is too overwhelming to take in without visual reference points… through the tunnels, parts of the landscape are framed and come into focus… the work encloses surrounds…”
Concrete Visions (1967)
Composite inkjet print of archival rag paper taken from original 126 format black and white negatives; printed 2012. 35 x 35 inches; 88.9 x 88.9 cm.
Holt’s early photographs laid the foundation for her sculpture work. She photographed the sites where Smithson would obtain the materials for his work. There is an exploration of perception, seeing frames within frames. By arranging the work in sequences, it offers multiple perspective compromising the whole of art, and rejects one-point perspective.
Western Graveyards (1968)
60 inkjet prints on archival rag paper, printed from original 126 format transparencies; printed 2012. 18 x 18 inches; 45.7 x 45.7 cm.
This work compromises of old cemeteries in the deserts of Nevada and California, many fenced off and overgrown. Holt uses this work as an anthropological study through photography. Holt takes the grave and makes it a work of art, making graves gallery shots. Holt was drawn to the graves because they captured “how people thought about space out the West; their last desire was to delineate a little plot of their own because there was so much vastness.” This reflects her ongoing interest in human interventions in the landscape.
Hydra’s Head (1974)
This work is much of an unknown, as documentation of the work has been kept to a minimum. It is an arrangement of concrete cylinders in a riverbank that corresponds to the constellation above. Holt’s work consistently sets us on the ground, only to have us look up at the sky.
Pine Barrens (1975)
30:24 min; colour, sound, film on HD video.
This video shows the desolate sand and pipe landscapes of central New Jersey. The visual work is combined with audio of local music and interviews with residents, known as ‘Pineys’. What is heard is feelings about the land, their attitudes to city life and myths of the area. It adds a psychological dimension to the landscape. Holt is concerned with evoking a wilderness in south-central New Jersey. The camera is always in motion – tracking, pivoting and walking through landscape.
Sun Tunnels (1973-6)
Concrete, steel, earth, 111 x 822 x 636 in.; 281.9 x 2087.9 x 1615.4 cm.
This is Holt’s most infamous large scale installation works in Great Basic Desert, Utah. It composes of four large concrete cylinders, arranged on the desert floor in a cross pattern, that align with the sunrise and sunset on the summer and winter solstices. Each of the cylinders are pierced with smaller holes representing the stars of four constellations; Draco, Perseus, Columba and Capricorn. Holt’s design allows for an ever-changing play of light and shadow upon the surfaces of her work. The work focuses our vision and challenging our understanding of an environment. Holt’s work draws our attention to the complexities of our relationship with the landscape we inhabit and act upon.
Sculptural sites allow the viewer the channel vastness of nature into human scale while creating contemplative, subjective experience grounded in a specific location in real time.
Dark Star Park (1979-84)
This was publicly commissioned by Arlington County, Virginia, in conjunction with an urban renewal project. Holt transformed two thirds of an acre that was once a gas station and dilapidated warehouse into a municipal park with pools, spheres tunnels. The forms are a contrast to the busy and highly developed commercial area that surrounds the space. the materials are common to the area and used as building materials. It is an interactive space where the work alters the viewer’s perception by using curvilnear forms. The work explores the concept of time and out relationship with the universe, inked to Holt’s obsession with solar eclipses. Each year at 9:32am on August 1, the date in 1860 on which the land became Rosslyn was purchased, the natural shadows of the sculptures align with the fabricated shadows.
“It’s called Dark Star Park because in my imagination there spheres are like stars that have fallen to the ground – they no longer shine – so I think of the park/artwork in a somewhat celestial way.”
Solar Rotary (1995)
University of South Florida, Tampa
This is a public art installation of eight connected poles and benches arranged in a circular plaza. It is influences by the sun’s movement and the summer solstice. The piece includes several elements including a central circular stone with a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite, seats at North South East West and five plaques and benches commemorating significant events in Florida’s history with considerate planting. On any given day, Solar Rotary will cast its dynamic sun symbol shadow in a continuously changing pattern on the pavement below, highlighting plaques on their corresponding dates.