Nancy Holt: Points of View
This September Nancy Holt: Points of View launches at Parafin, London. The exhibition explores Nancy Holt’s fascination with language and systems of perception.
Holt’s earliest artworks were concrete poems, and many of her film and video works focus on communication, interpretation, and the subjectivity of language. In the mid 1960s Holt worked as an assistant literary editor at the magazine Harper’s Bazaar, and in 1966 began creating concrete poems and text-based works of art. These works announce the themes of sight, site, systems, place, and geography that would preoccupy her over the following decades. In her 1972 journal Holt noted a fascination with making words “concrete through vision.”
Holt treated words as discrete entities to be deployed in spatial strategies that defy and confound conventional narrative meaning. Seven concrete poems, spanning 1966 to 1986, are presented in Points of View. Alongside, the photowork Wistman’s Wood (1969) shows the site of Holt’s first Buried Poem, an artwork dedicated to Robert Smithson, and the nineteen part photographic series California Sun Signs (1972) charts the use of the word “sun” in signage Holt passed as she drove through the state of California to the Mojave Desert.
In the 1970s Holt’s interest in framing vision and making words material led her to explore the productive miscommunications that take place when information is imperfectly transferred from one medium to another. The four-screen video installation Points of View (1974) reveals, as she notes in her journal, “the wonder of place through verbal description.” Points of View was made for the Clocktower Gallery in New York. Four monitors show views of Lower Manhattan through the circular windows of the iconic New York exhibition space. Each is accompanied by a dialogue that, literally and conceptually, demonstrates different points of view. Lucy Lippard talks with Richard Serra, Liza Béar with Klaus Kertess, Carl Andre with Ruth Kligman, and Bruce Boice with Tina Girouard about what can be seen through the north, south, east, and west facing windows.