Through a Sand Dune, 1972, Narragansett Beach, Rhode Island.
Cement-asbestos pipe, sand. Photo Credit: Nancy Holt ©
Nancy Holt/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Still from 16-mm film
© Nancy Holt/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Visions, 1967, New Jersey. Composite of four 126-format
black-and-white photographs © Nancy Holt/Licensed by VAGA,
New York (detail)
Tunnels, 1973–76, Great Basin Desert, Utah. View
through two tunnels. Concrete, steel, earth . Photo Credit:
Nancy Holt © Nancy Holt/Licensed by VAGA, New York
Exhibition Opening Reception
Saturday May 5, 4-6pm, SFAI. Free
Saturday, May 5 – Friday, June 29
Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, SFAI Galleries I & II. Free
with Nancy Holt and Alena Williams
Monday, May 7, 6pm Tipton Hall
$10 general | $5 students & seniors
The Santa Fe Art Institute is proud to present Nancy
Holt: Sightlines, an in-depth examination of Holt’s early projects
from 1966 to 1980, on view from May 5 through June 29. Holt’s pioneering
work falls at the intersection of art, architecture, and time-based media.
The career of this important American artist took off in the late 1960s
when she and other like-minded artists in the U.S. turned away from the
emerging commercial gallery system to embrace the American landscape and
its geological diversity. Located beyond the confines of New York gallery
walls, Holt began working on large-scale outdoor projects that responded
to the environment and offered novel means for observing natural phenomena.
Although Holt’s work has regularly appeared in surveys and anthologies
on the Land Art movement, many of her forays into film and video, landscape
architecture, and environmental ecology have gone surprisingly unexamined.
This exhibition includes some 40 works and archival documents and was
organized by the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery of Columbia University
and curated by Alena J. Williams.
Nancy Holt was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1938 and grew up in
New Jersey. Shortly after graduating from Tufts University in 1960 as
a biology major, she moved to New York, where — alongside a group
of colleagues and collaborators including Michael Heizer, Carl Andre,
Eva Hesse, Richard Serra, and Robert Smithson — she began working
in film, video, installation, and sound art. With her novel use of cylindrical
forms, light, and techniques of reflection, Holt developed a unique aesthetic
of perception, which enabled visitors to her sites to engage with the
landscape in new and challenging ways.
Works like Sun Tunnels (1973–76), Views Through a Sand
Dune (1972), and her extensive Locator series provided a new lens
for observing natural phenomena (such as summer and winter solstices and
sun and moonlight patterns), which transform specific geographic locations
into vivid and resonant experiences. Her sculptural sites allow the viewer
to channel the vastness of nature into human scale while creating a contemplative,
subjective experience grounded in a specific location in real time.
Holt wrote in 1977 about her magnum opus, Sun Tunnels, located
in the Great Basin Desert of Utah: “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.
While Holt may be best known for Sun Tunnels, the construction
of which is prominently featured as a large video projection, the exhibition
includes a good deal of material being shown for the first time. Included
are early color photographic works taken during trips to different Mid-Atlantic
States, to the western states of Utah, Nevada, Montana, and California,
and abroad to Wales, England, and the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. New
digital photographic works document in color the passage of time at some
of her sites such as Sun Tunnels. A number of archival documents
including text-based works (such as scripts and concrete poetry), audiotapes,
and drawings appear for the first time.
The exhibition coincides with the release of Nancy Holt: Sightlines
by the University of California Press, the first published retrospective
account of Holt’s 45-year career. The book is edited by the exhibition
curator, Alena J. Williams. The multi-authored book charts Holt’s
artistic trajectory from initial experiments with new and unconventional
media like sound, light, and industrial materials to the culmination of
her development of major site interventions and freestanding environmental
sculpture. The book is available for purchase through the Santa Fe Art
Institute for $50.
This exhibition is organized by the Miriam
and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University. Presentation of Sightlines
at SFAI is made possible by generous funding from the Burnett Foundation,
Kindle Project, Lannan Foundation, McCune Charitable Foundation, National
Endowment for the Arts, Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation, City of Santa
Fe Arts Commission and the 1% Lodgers’ Tax, and New Mexico Arts,
a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
This exhibition and tour are funded in part by the National Endowment
for the Arts and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine
The publication of Nancy Holt: Sightlines (University of California
Press, 2011) is made possible by the generous support of the Lannan Foundation
and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.