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Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recommendation by Iris McLister


Continuing through December 30, 2012 

The windswept west is held tight in the American bosom as a place of independence, strength and resilience; also of loneliness, desperation or, more innocuously, of boredom. The provocative installation "Goldmines!" explores the western myth, a theme that, however well-established, is not often closely examined. The exhibition hinges on the viewer’s conceptualization of the American West as a place of solitude and mystery. The three artists behind the exhibition, all from the staff of the University of Wyoming’s art department, obtained a residency in Wendover, Utah, a dusty town on the Nevada border. Abandoned military facilities and boarded-up mineshafts, and the Utah Salt Flats, a vast, otherworldly landscape of white, salty plains, populate an area that’s desolate in a quintessentially western way. 


The exhibition includes video, sculpture, and drawings and paintings; and some things that resist easy categorization. Patrick Kikut’s smartly straightforward paintings of abandoned buildings and dilapidated signs suggest lethargy or dashed hope. Against one wall is a Gonzáles-Torres-like heap of match boxes constructed by Shelby Shadwell. The strange sight provokes a frenzy of questions for the viewer. Perhaps matches, those slim sticks of sulfur and wood, are an unexpectedly fitting choice here given their potential for warmth or light or even death — a jumble of good and bad associations akin to how we view the western wilderness. A post on the artists’ blog explores this idea, explaining that the “notion of ‘nowhere’ is an underlying theme that has always been present in [our] work ...  it is interesting that in much of the contemporary west the notion of “nowhere” is romanticized but for the most part in reality does not exist. “ This excellent show is rife with wonderful possibilities — and plenty of mystery.

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