The dusty little West Texas town of Marfa, seems to come up over and over again in the world of contemporary art; I’d been wanting to check it out for years. And last week I did. I flew to El Paso and drove south east for three hours, paralleling the Mexican border until I arrived at this little town dotted with giant yuccas that has only one blinking traffic light. “Really”, I thought, this is a contemporary art Mecca? But was it ever.
So what is so special about Marfa and why are people talking about it?
For one thing, Ana Maria Hernando, one of our favorite artists, has an exhibition of her contemporary art installations, paintings and lithographs at Marfa Contemporary, a gas station turned art museum that shares a space with a pretty amazing pizza parlor. The pizza rivals any I’ve had in New York, and so does the art. Rob, my business partner, had the pleasure of seeing this show in January in Oklahoma City at the Contemporary Art Museum before it traveled to Marfa last month. Ana’s stunningly beautiful exhibition, titled “The Illuminated Garden” in itself made the trip worthwhile. We have always been enormous believers in Ana’s incredible vision as an artist. 15th Street Gallery has the honor of having her lithographs here in our gallery.
So, what, beyond this exhibition makes Marfa so special?
Marfa’s claim to fame and what keeps the town on the map is clearly the fact that Donald Judd, one of founding members of the American minimalist movements, chose this town to house his truly incredible installations. The Chinati Foundation purchased a huge military complex there which houses the massive and exciting installations of not only Donald Judd, but many other contemporary American artists such as Dan Flavin and Claes Oldenburg. One is allowed to break free from the confines of a traditional art museum and romp through fields, winding in and out of Judd’s cement cubes or view in amazement how the light reflects off the 100 large steel boxes housed in 2 restored artillery sheds. The shockingly beautiful colored florescent light installations by Dan Flavin, housed in 6 identical restored barracks, was an experience I will never forget.
If you find yourself in El Paso or Midland it is definitely worth the 3 hour trip to Marfa.