Using material that is often inspired by the location at which her artwork is sited, Anya Gallaccio is known for installations that reflect a deep understanding of physicality, the natural world, and landscape. Her past use of ephemeral items such as fresh-cut red gerbera flowers that decayed over time in Preserve ‘Beauty’ (1991/2003) or apples in blessed(1999) employ nature as a material. For This much is true, she chose the geology of Texas as a tool after reacquainting herself with San Antonio. The resulting work, an installation of four cubic sculptures constructed of 10 different types of indigenous stone, including Pecos Red Sandstone, Salado Creme Limestone, and Cordova Shell Limestone, has a minimalist lightness opposed to the very nature of the material from which they are made.
How did you choose the materials for this piece?
The materials are all locally quarried stones from Texas. Texas is a vast state and is fascinating geologically. There is a fault line, the Llano Uplift, that divides the state into distinct geographic regions. Most of the stones are limestone and sandstone, so some of the pieces contain bits of shells.
Is there meaning behind your choice of local stones?
I was interested in the idea of what makes a place and how it can mean many different things including social or cultural meanings. The geology contains a vast amount of material and information about a place as well. When we think about a place we often consider it in a social way and the people that occupy the space and not the land itself. I think of this piece as a landscape and in a way as a sister piece to my residency project from 1997. Both pieces are clichés about Texas and landscapes, but the format is quite different. Most of the stones are sedimentary, so you have to dig down to collect them, which is also like a core sample to get a sense of the geology and differences in the stones. It should go back and forth between a visually pleasing object and something that holds a lot of information. The open cube suggests depth and volume and the notion of taking a slice out of the landscape. There is also a reference to Donald Judd and Marfa, which to me is a huge thing about Texas. The landscape there is etched in my memory from my visit there during my residency.
Talk about the placement of the stones.
My logic was to position the cubes in the room close to the door and then they go at a diagonal across the space. They are open, but they feel like enclosures at the same time. When you enter, it feels a bit claustrophobic and shut out, so that they push you into the space, and then it opens up when you look from the other end. Psychologically and physically, it is another way to think about the Texas landscape. There are thousands and thousands of open acres, but everything is fenced off.
What was it like coming back for another Artpace project?
Since my residency, I have become more and more imbedded in experiencing the landscape of the American West. It is hard making work in such a short time because there is not time to get anything fully resolved, but the resources are fantastic and I have enjoyed both experiences. I like the air of experimentation at Artpace. While it is understood that you are making a show, there is a certain amount of latitude because of the curiosity about the process. There is some wiggle room which is important as an artist. Otherwise it makes it impossible to participate in something like this because it is coming to work rather than coming to experiment.