WikiWest

My exhibition at HPGRP Gallery NY consists of a large wooden structure, several digital collages derived from Google image searches, and a large painting of a landscape.

The walkway is a sculptural structure made of untreated lumber that explores the architecture of the gallery space. It moves up and down and dictates the flow of traffic throughout the space. It engages with the modern architecture of landscape tourism. It maps the physical passage through space of a walker, traveler, tourist. It unifies experience. The walkway curates the nature experience and tells us where to take a picture—how to understand a view. The line of a trail defines a border between mankind and nature—it is a passage—a drawing on a landscape that is a manifestation of wilderness, of frontier, and of memory. Something fundamental to being American is travel through the landscape—this takes the form of immigration, hiking, road trips, and national park tourism. By driving across the country we recreate the action of the westward expansion of the pioneers.

The photographs are mounted on shaped aluminum supports. The shape is dictated by the outside perimeter of the collaged photos, which are arranged by a common vanishing point. The shape of the support makes them engage with modernist form and sculpture. The subject matter of each piece comes from a Google image search of a singular object that exists in the landscape. The nature of those singular objects is also sculptural. The image is then comprised of the top ten results of a Google image search. They explore the Internet as a virtual site and as a rite of passage. We Google a place before we visit the site. The photos in the gallery comprise a sort of non-site. We walk the pathway in the landscape and because of our previous virtual experience there we recognize the photo we are supposed to take and the view we are supposed to experience while we are there. We then Instagram it and contribute to the public consciousness about that landscape and we prove to the virtual world we’ve been there.

The painting of an expansive sagebrush field with a broad, flat horizon is inspired by Cormack McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. It is the visceral flipside of the manifest destiny explored in the walkway and photo-collages. It acknowledges the pain and violence inherent in nature and in the Sublime. The red color of the painting is for the red earth of the Western United States. It is the red of the setting sun. It is the red of the sun through skies polluted with windblown dust or with the exhaust of a million cars. The red is also the color of the blood of Indians and pioneers that travel the landscape. It is the color of the blood of massacres—of the Hans Mill Massacre of Mormon pioneers in Illinois—of the Mountain Meadows Massacre of innocents traveling through Utah on their way to California, massacred by Mormons. It represents the blood of North-bound immigrants crossing the border and crossing the desert. It is the color of the blood that is spilled by a wolf as it takes down a deer. It’s the color of Sublime of the struggle of life.

In spite of the diverse media, the exhibition works together as a whole in a way that explores the role of landscape, travel in the landscape, and architectural form in the creation of a unified experience and identity through tourism, the creation of cultural objects, and through art historical context.

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