Haunch of Venison presents ‘Photoworks’, the first solo exhibition of work by established American artist, Nancy Holt to be held in the UK. Holt, one of the leading artists of her generation and a pioneer of land, as well as film and video art, is less well known for her photographic work, indeed much of which is on display at Haunch of Venison has never been previously exhibited.
‘Photoworks’ consists of over one hundred photographs dating from 1967 onwards. Despite the breadth of Holt’s oeuvre and the impressive range of media she has employed throughout her career, a career spanning more than four decades, photography has remained central to her artistic endeavour. Her beginnings as an artist coincided with a moment during which radical shifts in the cultural landscape initiated new ways of making art. For Holt as for her contemporaries, Robert Smithson, Dan Graham, and Richard Long, amongst others, the camera became a vital tool, a versatile medium at once cheap, quick and easy to use, a simple way to address complex phenomena, and a documentary device that allowed an extended mediation on the changing conditions of place, or the quasi-anthropological investigation of site.
For Holt, photography is often just one element of a larger conceptual construction, take for example Holt’s images of ‘Sunlight in Sun Tunnels’, 30 photographs taken every half an hour between 6.30 and 9am on 14th July 1976 in order to record the movement of light and shade, which enrich our understanding of the quiet, unobtrusive yet strangely emotive significance of this four part installation in south-eastern Utah’s Great Basin Desert.
Other favourites include ‘Ruin View’ (1969) an intimately sized photograph of the magical Temple of the Sun, Palenque, and ‘Light and Shadow Photo-Drawings’ (1978), a series of large, lunar like inkjet prints on archival rag paper taken from 35mm black and white negatives. Perhaps the most affective, however, are Holt’s 60 photographs of dilapidated ‘Western Graveyards’ taken during her visits to cemeteries in Virginia City, Nevada, and Lone Pine, California in 1968. Each aging grave is touchingly unique, some formal, others less so, all loved and yet somewhat lost. “People sing songs about how free they feel in open spaces, yet when you are in the desert in so much vastness, there is a desire for containment,” says Holt. “I became totally absorbed shooting photographs in those graveyards, and all of my work was affected by it.”
A powerfully meditative, insightful and enlightening show.
‘Photoworks’ is on now until 25th August.
Image courtesy of Haunch of Venison ©Nancy Holt.