Between Life and Land: Material at Kimball Art Center stuns not by virtue of its star artists, but from those that highlight the wonder and horror of our natural world.
Between Life and Land: Material
December 9, 2022–April 9, 2023
Kimball Art Center, Park City
The first of a three-part series of exhibitions, Between Life and Land: Material showcases ten artists whose works grapple with a subject at once ubiquitous and integral—land.
While the inclusion of titans Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson reminds viewers of the state’s storied connection to the Land Art movement, the pair’s video pieces revisiting the creation of their most famous earthworks feel at odds with the rest of the exhibition. Especially when considering the thoughtfulness with which other artists handle the earth’s delicate ecosystems amid the threats of climate change.
Indeed, the standouts envision land as the basis for both formal and conceptual experimentation.
Colour Maisch’s sculptural works are a tantalizing synthesis of organic and industrial materials. In a piece that is as visually stunning as it is conceptually effective, she dips blades of grass in porcelain and ink to experiment with the effects of evaporation and entropy.
Collin Bradford’s work explores the ephemeral nature of human interaction with the landscape. Future Perfect and Past Perfect (both 2020) rebuff the decorum of institutional space with work that droops and radiates outside the lines, a land-based carryover of Minimalist tradition. Bradford’s playful act invites us to consider our own phenomenological interaction with space.
In Death Mask for Landscape (2022), David Brooks presents a series of drone-scan videos of now-destroyed sections of the Amazonian forest, from which he crafts aluminum models.
Despite the taxonomical nature of these renderings, they are stunning and emotionally affecting, reclaiming the nomenclature historically reserved for preserving the likeness of renowned human figures and imbuing a sort of personhood to these extinct sites.
Elsewhere, Mary Mattingly’s Soil Stories (2020) features rows of soil samples corresponding to written narratives from the soil’s perspective, collected from individuals nationwide and archived in a nearby file cabinet. Rodrigo Valenzuela’s video work Meditations on Land (2013) depicts the Chilean artist burying himself in soil in slow motion, emphasizing the meditative, spiritual quality of human connection to the land.
If this sprawling, five-gallery exhibition forces us to think critically about the land we inhabit, it also fascinates for the myriad ways artists employ this elastic category for unbridled creativity. And while such creativity is on full display, impossible to ignore is a sense of urgency for a land changing before our eyes.