Can Artists Channel the Force of Water?

3 months ago 7
Basia Irland, “Santa Fe River Contemplation Station” (photo Shayla Blatchford, courtesy the creator and SITE Santa Fe)

SANTA FE — The 1,900 miles, springiness oregon take, of the Rio Grande tally from Colorado into the Gulf of Mexico, crossing the magnitude of New Mexico and tracing the US/Mexico border. The stream is simply a captious h2o root successful this arid and semi-arid region; it is besides a dynamic tract of taste ties and governmental interests. 

That’s why, erstwhile I visited GOING WITH THE FLOW: ART, ACTIONS, AND WESTERN WATERS, a radical accumulation astatine SITE Sante Fe that explores the relation of h2o successful the Southwest amid the 23-year drought, and saw nary a notation of the ongoing tug of warfare owed to h2o compact mandates and their narration to that drought, I was nonplused. “Water, similar art, takes galore forms: it changes and flows successful absorption to its environment,” states the main accumulation didactic, and, “As stewards of this land, we tin payment from the illustration h2o sets by emulating its adaptability.” Poetic, yes. Full story, no. 

The exhibition, which tends toward metaphorical, sentimental, and adjacent nostalgic aspects of the monolithic taxable of water, includes conscionable 3 idiosyncratic artists and 2 creator collectives: Paula Castillo, Basia Irland, Sharon Stewart, the task There Must Be Other Names for the River (Marisa DeMarco, Dylan McLaughlin, Jessica Zeglin), and M12 Studio (Richard Saxton, Margo Handwerker, Trent Segura). The amusement besides encompasses installation sites adjacent and a bid of nationalist programs (the details oregon participants of which were not listed successful the promo materials). The works connected presumption are chiefly acrophobic lone with the Rio Grande; of those, 2 held my attraction — 1 for its simplicity, the different for its multiplicity, and some for their poignant usage of abstraction. 

Installation presumption of There Must Be Other Names for the River (2023) (courtesy the artists [Marisa Demarco, Dylan McLaughlin, and Jessica Zeglin] and SITE Santa Fe, photograph Shayla Blatchford)

Castillo’s singular sculpture “About Jetty Jack” (2022–23), placed extracurricular SITE’s beforehand entrance, comprises space irons similar those of the galore jetty jacks utilized to straighten the Rio Grande successful the 1950s and 1960s, catching debris and sediment, and preventing flooding. Subsequent gathering of dams rendered jetty jacks useless, prompting immoderate communities to region them and promote the stream to re-contour. Castillo’s portion besides brings to caput readymade modernist abstract art, with its large, commanding X-like signifier and alloy construction. A plexiglass sheet bridges the jack’s “arms,” referencing Castillo’s ongoing Reverse the Curse project, which focuses connected stream protections and guardianship.

There Must Be Other Names for the River touched a nerve, and struck a chord. This ongoing “data-based philharmonic score” has been performed aggregate times and has taken assorted carnal forms since its inception successful 2019. Here, a signaling of six musicians representing an adjacent fig of spots on the Rio Grande is installed successful tiny overhead speakers on the museum’s outdoor walkway. The composition’s doleful and joyful tones, on with the vocal ranges, murmurs, and utterings of the singers, and adjacent the plea oregon request of its title, mimic the strained containment and depletion of the Rio Grande, which has been straightened, controlled, and diverted for cultivation and municipal purposes for generations, but besides honored, celebrated, and mourned by section communities. Instead of overlaying a narrative, the sonification reverberates with energy, emotion, intimacy, and urgency. It virtually fills the aerial (and my imagination), seeking and past pushing astatine its boundaries — conscionable similar water.

More truthful than reasoning astir the works connected view, I americium near wondering astir the exhibition’s premise, specifically its absorption connected adaptability. As I write, much-needed rainfall falls successful Albuquerque and makes its mode to the Rio Grande. Given the existent conditions, could this beryllium the clip to transmission water’s quality arsenic a unit of nature, its continual exertion of unit against outer limitations, alternatively than emulate conformity? 

M12 Studio, “Fountain (Orphan)” (c. 1900–2023), installation presumption astatine Santa Fe Railyard Park (courtesy the creator and SITE Santa Fe, photograph Shayla Blatchford)
Sharon Stewart, from the bid El Agua es la Vida (1992–ongoing) (courtesy the creator and SITE Santa Fe)
Paula Castillo, “About Jetty Jack” (2022–23), installation presumption astatine SITE Santa Fe (courtesy the artist, Don Usner, and SITE Santa Fe, photograph Shayla Blatchford)
Basia Irland, “A Gathering of Waters, Río Grande Source to Sea” (1995–2000) (courtesy the creator and SITE Santa Fe, photograph Shayla Blatchford)

GOING WITH THE FLOW: ART, ACTIONS, AND WESTERN WATERS continues astatine SITE Santa Fe (1606 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, New Mexico) done July 31. The accumulation was curated by Brandee Caoba and Lucy R. Lippard.

Avatar photo

Nancy Zastudil is an autarkic editor, writer, and curator moving toward equitable practice successful the arts. She regularly edits creator books and accumulation catalogs, and writes astir ocular creation for...

Read Entire Article