MARY LUCIER, THE PLAINS OF SWEET REGRET
JANUARY 23 - MAY 1, 2008
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At the turn of the twenty-first century, Mary Lucier began to visit North Dakota, traveling across seasons and time, into the far northwest corner of the state. Seismic change has forced the people of the Northern plains to re-imagine their lives as family farms, small towns, and rural communities have shrunk to nothing. The land is now occupied by agribusiness; the lone farmer, the cowboy, migrant workers and field hands have gradually moved on. The remains dot the landscape like the skeletons of fish washed up on far distant shores.
Mary Lucier's eighteen-minute, five-channel video installation creates the experience of moving through the landscape, across the prairies and the plains, and into the West of the imagination–the West, which, if it ever existed, lies in ruins.
Laced with melancholy, The Plains of Sweet Regret asks the viewer: What is it about this life that one cherishes, that must not be lost through change? A calf is born. The rancher's large hand gently reaches in to help. The empty landscape, mutating from fall into winter, is achingly beautiful. Then, in the last six minutes, the work explodes into the dance of the bucking horse, the bull, the clown, the rodeo rider. This is the resplendent West, but Lucier undermines its glory with loss. The artist sets her choreography to George Strait's song, I Can Still Make Cheyenne. The music and the images cascade back over themselves, folding, repositioning, repeating, alive with rapture . . . and, again, longing.
Mary Lucier was born in 1944 in Bucyrus, Ohio. A seminal figure in the history of video art, she began working in the medium in the 1970s. “I arrived at video through performance, sculpture, photography, theater, music– mediums that evolve in time, involve a frame and are three dimensional,” says Lucier, “A video installation deals with time and space and placement and framing, sound, picture, movement, stillness– but in a single medium.” Over the course of her nearly forty year career, Mary’s work has been collected and exhibited at museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei. Her work continues to be relevant as an exploration of tragedy and cultural loss. She lives and works in New York City.