Mountain War Time

Gabriel Martinez

In Residence: May 18 – Jul 20, 2015

Exhibition: Jul 16 – Sep 13, 2015

What is your exhibition about?
The work draws on research into the first atomic detonation in Alamogordo, New Mexico and the dangers of its radioactive fallout. I approached the subject matter from different frameworks and considered several facets of the history of the atomic bomb: the geologic conditions preceding the establishment of the White Sands Missile Range, the implications of class and race for the Tularosa Basin communities where the detonation occurred, and the intertwined colonial narratives which bring uranium mined in the Belgian Congo to Apache Mescalero land in southern New Mexico.

Who is in the video?
Henry Herrera witnessed the blast as a young child. In the video he recalls the morning of July 16, 1945. He describes the roiling cloud and the volatilized silica that covered clean laundry hanging on the line. He plays a song he has performed at many of the funerals of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders. Henry’s testimony refutes the official story, which claims the fallout blew away from the local populations.

Who are the Tularosa Basin Downwinders?
They are members of the communities adjacent to Trinity Site, the code name for the first nuclear detonation site in New Mexico. The people were exposed to radiation following the above ground atmospheric nuclear test. The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium is a group that is fighting for acknowledgment from the U.S. government; they are struggling for social justice and seeking the same recognition and status as other downwinders from Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Colorado.

What are the images of?
When the bomb exploded it fused gypsum silica into a glass called trinitite. My grandmother collected a jar of it after the area was opened to the public in the late 1960s. To create the images, I used pieces of trinitite to expose x-ray film. I was thinking of an incident I learned of in my research in which several batches of x-rays had been mysteriously compromised. Eastman Kodak later discovered the paper mill in Ohio that produced their cardboard dividers contained bits of pulp contaminated by fallout from the blast. The sensitivity of the x-ray film provided an unintentional record of the range of the fallout.


Gabriel Martinez

Houston, Texas, USA

Houston-based artist Gabriel Martinez creates art experiences beyond the traditional gallery setting, hinting at social and political undercurrents. Martinez has intervened in public spaces, suggesting alternate uses and interpretations for empty lots or bus stops without seating. By installing signage or benches where there previously were none, perceptions change through participation in the altered landscape. Martinez is a 2012 CORE Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as an artist in residence at Project Row Houses. He received his MFA from Columbia University.

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Ian Alden Russell

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Ian Alden Russell is an independent curator and designer based in Rhode Island. With an academic background in intellectual history, archaeology, and heritage studies, he focuses on the practice of artists and curators in galleries, museums, heritage sites, and public spaces, especially the application of social practice in the constitution of cultural heritage.

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