Bernard and Nancy Sorofman

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Ed Fuentes of Paint This Desert spoke to the Sorofmans on October 25th. The next day he sent us this interview.

Bernard and Nancy Sorofman visited the Barrick Museum of Art today. The two alumni have a connection to a younger campus, as they worked on the site when the Barrick was a different kind of museum. “I was hired in late ‘69 to work at DRI by Richard Brooks”, said Bernard. DRI stood for Desert Research Institute.

So what did the future Professor and Executive Associate Dean at The University of Iowa College of Pharmacy do at the Barrick?

“Open the door. Take care of people. Watch out for tortoises that went around scaring people,” he said.

“There was a cobra that kept getting loose,” reminded Nancy Sorofman, whose last name was Jackson when she an archaeology major.

Both graduated from UNLV in 1972 and the campus keeps changing each time they visit, they said.  “It’s quite different. Big. Diverse,” says Bernard.  What was the tone and feel of the campus then? “Small. Confused,” he says with a reflective smile. “There was one dorm. They had just opened the business building.”

Being the early 1970s, was there a campus culture of protests, activism, all the things we think about with 1960s and 70s university life?

“Uh. No. It was a commuter school,” said Bernard as he pointed to the parking lot. “That was all dirt.”

Still, they come back to visit. “What I really like is the garden out here, next to the museum,” he says, where a memory dirt lane is now in the middle of a Xeriscape garden next to museum with a new name.

 

 

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What Did Art Make You Think About Today? (Relationships, Careers, and the Recession)

MARJORIE BARRICK MUSEUM_JULIAN KILKER

Untitled photograph by Julian Kilker, 2009

This is the second entry in our What Did Art make You Think About Today? series.

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Julian Kilker brought one of his classes to see Tested Ground before it closed on September 16th. Kilker is the UNLV Graduate Coordinator of Journalism and Media Studies and an Associate Professor of Emerging Technologies. He talks about developing a complex understanding of the relationships between humans and the machinery they create. During the tour he told us that Jenny Odell’s Bureau of Suspended Objects reminded him of the 1979 book Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. Meanwhile, Alexa Hoyer’s Targets series took him back to a time when he visited a firing range to take pictures of the shooters’ makeshift targets, just as Hoyer had done. By coincidence they both chose the same range.

Hoyer began her series in 2014. Kilker was there five years earlier while the recession was robbing people of their jobs. In the same terrain where she photographed a miscellaneous number of things (a pineapple, a book, a mannequin leg), he found himself surrounded by the relics of terminated employment. Later he sent us some of his photographs and this email:

 

I photographed informal shooting ranges in the Sloan Canyon area in March 2009 but with a different focus [to that of Hoyer]. The household, work, and personal artifacts [in my photographs] appeared linked to the economic downturn, and the number of CRT TV sets linked to the transition from SD broadcast to HD.*

DK [the tour guide] and I discussed the idea that isolated desert shooting ranges allow people to destroy objects of private shame such as failed relationships and careers — something not possible in normal shooting ranges.

 

*Attached to the email was a copy of an article from 2008 called Recycling of Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) in Electronic Waste, by Dr. Sunil Herat of Griffith University, Queensland. “It is estimated that CRT constitutes around 65% of the weight of a television or a computer monitor,” Herat writes. “Environmental impacts of waste CRTs arise mainly from its lead content … lead from CRTs could pose a major risk to the environment.” During the class, Kilker told us he had seen the innards of blown-apart televisions scattered across the Sloan Canyon firing range in sheets of glittering fragments.

What Did Art Make You Think About Today? (Replicas)

 

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Joan Linder, Toxic Archives, 2013 – present, watercolor and ink on paper | Photo: http://www.fotoahoy.com

 

To open our new series, What Did Art Make You Think About Today?, Barrick Interim Director Alisha Kerlin shared some thoughts on replica art with D.K. Sole, who typed them out for this post. We’re planning to solicit more entries for the series in the future.

Why are artists and makers interested in replicating objects? 

Looking at the Barrick right now I see replication everywhere. On view in the Braunstein library we have three ancient conch shells that seem identically genuine until you read the label and realize one of them is made of clay. “Real shell, fake shell, real shell,” said Joshua Wolf Shenk of BMI when we showed them to him, running over the words as if they were haiku. The real shells were collected by the same West Mexican cultures that made the clay shell. Why did they want a ‘fake’? Visitors who look at the Joan Linder drawings in the East Gallery might wonder why we’ve pinned so many photocopies to the walls until they notice that the works are actually ink drawings – handmade replicas of government documents detailing experiments carried out after the atomic bomb tests of the mid-20th century. A tulip on the floor nearby seems to be peering at three pictures of plants hanging on the wall near its head, but the flower is made of paper, and the pictures are, of course, not real plants. The entire arrangement is a work by Andreana Donahue, Lost Tulip (Semper Augustus Flame), 2017.

Meeting with Assistant Professor Josh Vermillion from the UNLV School of Architecture, I showed him the display of shells and we talked about Linder’s drawings. Together we were trying to work out ways that our two areas of the College of Fine Arts could support and enrich one another. Vermillion offered me an idea. What if the School of Architecture and the Architecture Studies Library used laser scanning to make virtual replicas of the objects in our Mexican mask collection? What if their virtual reality technologies were incorporated into our workshops with CCSD school children?

My mind was working. What does it mean to have an ‘unreal’ encounter with an artwork? How is this new technology different from a ritual object or an observational drawing? There are new opportunities here. These are ideas I want us to unpack. 

 

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Andreana Donahue, Lost Tulip (Semper Augustus Flame), 2017, paper, glue acrylic, graphite, found photos

 

(Thanks to that meeting, the School of Architecture and the Architecture Studies Library is planning to open a pop-up “augmented reality sandbox” during the Barrick’s opening reception on October 6, 5 – 9 p.m. “inviting you to sculpt, scan, and walk-through virtual landscape and environments.”)

Targets, Take II

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Alexa Hoyer, Santa, 2015, Archival pigmented print on Dibond

 

The Barrick’s Research and Education Engagement staff member, D.K. Sole, is inspired by Ed Fuentes’ commentary on Alexa Hoyer’s photographs. She writes –

 

Seeing the Ed Fuentes review of Alexa Hoyer’s Santa, 2015, and the other photographs in her Targets series, 2013 – 2017, I remembered Lee Cannarozzo and an essay he was planning to write before he left for New York State in the middle of the year. The text was going to be based around three places he knew. The first was Jean Dry Lake, a desert area he used to visit with his friends while he was growing up in Las Vegas; the second was Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains, between the Lake and the Interstate 15 highway, and the third was an unregulated firing range where Hoyer worked on the Targets by photographing the domestic objects that shooters had gone to the trouble of piling together in rough statues so they would not feel they were firing bullets aimlessly into the gap of the landscape, a problem for anyone who goes out with a weapon but no enemy. 

Everyone knew the range, Lee said; you pass it on the I-15 before the Mountains come into view. Of course this Rondinone had not been in place when he was younger. Growing up, he went to the Lake for fun (I think he told us), but later he discovered that groups of artists had performed experiments out there in the ’60s and ’70s by digging, scratching, or decorating the earth. Did Lee feel that the actions of those artists had echoed or prefaced the actions of himself and his friends? I never asked. Anyway, Jean Dry Lake had revealed itself to him as a significant historical location. Doubtless he heard or read that Jean Tinguely blew up seven junk assemblages on the bare surface in 1962, calling his action Study for the End of the World no. 2, a performance for NBC, Life Magazine, and several other news or entertainment organizations that had already covered the explosions of atomic bombs in other parts of the desert farther away from town.

Lee was going to write about the ontological conjunction between those three familiar places and what they meant to him as someone who had been raised here. He would also tell us how he came to make his own art practice on top of Jean Dry Lake. It strikes me that Jean Tinguely had the same name as the location where he blew up his seven collections of Las Vegas’ discarded junk, though the town of Jean is of course not named after him but after a woman named Jean Fayle who had married the man who was the postmaster there in 1905. Tinguely was born in Switzerland twenty years after the town of Jean received its name.

Rondinone, also born in Switzerland, wanted to do something with pyramids when he received the Nevada commission but they talked him out of it. Perhaps during his European childhood he had imagined the nearby sand of North Africa decorated with the giant tombs of Egypt. You can speculate happily like this, especially when you recall that Tinguely also compressed North Africa and the American West together in his mind. “I need a place where I can build as big as I want, and destroy as violently. The only two settings I can think of as appropriate are the Sahara and the American Desert,” he told the Saturday Evening Post, April 21, 1962.

I believe Lee said he was not a great shooter himself but he accompanied friends who went out to the firing range. Later, as a student, he was able to connect the region to Michael Heizer, the artist behind Double Negative, 1969-70, City, 1972 – , and Levitated Mass, 2012, an upstanding rock balanced across the lips of a trench near the main entry to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the La Brea Tar Pits. Surely he was in the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art auditorium when representatives from the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno spoke to the seventy-five-year-old photographer Gianfranco Gorgoni, who had been brought to Las Vegas so that he could tell us stories about the days he spent photographing the creations of Heizer and other early Land Artists on Jean Dry Lake? If Lee had not already known that a simple tower was constructed in those long-ago times so that Gorgoni could photograph the lines and trenches from above then he learnt it that night.

Myself I felt tense because the photographer was quiet in his chair for most of the evening, as if he had fallen asleep. When they probed him directly for a reminiscence then he described a day when something went wrong, trapping him on top of the tower for hours in the oven of the sunlight, unable to get down. He seemed newly animated as he described his potentially fatal adventure. I may even have a memory of him laughing.

Habits repeat themselves and it is possible that even in Tinguely’s time the shooters of Las Vegas were taking their extra rubbish to the desert and building assemblages there. To them it might have seemed that the practice of the Swiss man was similar to theirs, but with more publicity around it and a different sense of time in that they changed the shapes of their statues piece by piece with successive bullets and not all at once with dynamite. Tinguely, impressed by the new atomic bombs, might have imagined that the end of the world would arrive suddenly, dramatically, and not through the creative effort of chipping – not envisioning a figure inside a block of marble and trying to release it for everyone to see, like a Michelangelo, instead allowing matter to reveal an explosion, as if a block of marble had spent a moment telling you that a chisel was hitting it.

There it is, it says. 

Its language is not the same as that of the figurine in Hoyer’s Santa, who speaks by standing. Meanwhile the figures in other images have parts that suggest a person who is standing, lying, and sitting simultaneously. In real life they must be somewhat near one another but in the photographs it is impossible to tell because she makes each one announce itself starkly in the center of the frame with nothing else around except hills, small plants, and brightly-colored shell casings. These things are dissimilar to the target – therefore I can say the figure is “alone.” Of course I can’t write that without recalling the microscopically tremendous gaps between the tiny bits of matter that constitute us and everything and how we are made of something that is not even air. I had been paying attention to the lone objects for so long that it was surprising to hear UNLV’s recycling manager Tara Pike say she saw trash all the way to the horizon when she looked at a photo like Santa, insisting that the multitudinous body of the shell casings was the most significant aspect of the subject matter, not the erect mass of plastic, wood, fruit, or whatever else the recreational shooters had put together.

I recall, now, the people from the Reno museum mentioning the permits they had to obtain before Rondinone could have Seven Magic Mountains built in the desert between the I-15 and the Dry Lake – permits that did not exist when Tinguely was destroying his machines, or when Heizer and the other Earthworks or Land Art people were drawing lines, digging trenches, and so on; and nor do the shooters behave as if they exist. First the NMA had to commission a map of the separate plants and other objects on the ground there, even old tin cans, because anything that has lain in one spot in the desert for more than fifty years is officially designated an artifact and its placement becomes historical evidence. This means that the shell casings will become artifacts if they are not moved, and so will the objects that Hoyer has photographed, though not the Santa figurine since one of her Las Vegas friends took it from the firing range and mailed it to her New York apartment as a surprise after she had flown home from Nevada. Though upright, like the Mountains, it must not have been so emphatically fastened to its spot on the earth since it was able to easily swap it for another one. Away it flies. Heizer’s Levitated Mass at LACMA – also very upright – teases you with the idea that one day it might change positions, crack out of its straddle and tip down the trench on top of someone. Today he plays with the idea of disintegration but his earlier works were earnest with it, all built to vanish. At this point in his essay Lee would have observed that we change as we age. Gorgoni, safe in his chair, is down from the tower. The moment before he discovered he was unable to save himself is lost forever. From the Mountains you can see bulges of dust following the invisible vehicles that people drive around on the Lake surface that offers them little resistance. You assume it is the feeling of no resistance they are there for since they do not appear to be traveling anywhere with an aim.