Nancy Holt

Photo: Ardele Lister
© Holt/Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

 

 

Nancy Holt (1938–2014) was central to the earth, land and conceptual art movements as well as a pioneer of site-specific installation and experimental moving image. She recalibrated the limits of art, expanding the places where art could be found and embraced the new media of her time. Across five decades, she asked questions about how we might understand our place in the world, consistently investigating the relationships between perception, systems, and place. Holt’s rich artistic output spans concrete poetry, audioworks, film and video, photography, slideworks, ephemeral gestures, drawings, room-sized installations, earthworks, artists’ books, and public sculpture commissions.  

 

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Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Holt grew up in New Jersey. She graduated from Tufts University, where she majored in biology. Upon graduating in 1960 she moved to New York City and became a vital part of the city’s network of genre changing artists. Her first group exhibition was Language III at Dwan Gallery in 1969, her first solo at l0 Bleecker Street in 1972. Numerous exhibitions, screenings, and commissions followed.

From her earliest works Holt was attentive to language as a system structuring our understanding of place. In the mid-1960s she was an assistant literary editor at Harper’s Bazaar and in 1966 began creating concrete poems. In the ensuing years she extended her language explorations from the page to the landscape, as well as to photography, film, video, and audio. Holt extended this focus to trace in her artworks the systems of the stars, the functions of the built environment, and human mapping of landscape. 

Photography was an essential medium. Trail Markers (1969) and California Sun Signs (1972) use seriality to create visual poems, while Sunlight in Sun Tunnels (1976) and the Light and Shadow Photo Drawings (1978) turn to ever-shifting light cycles. In 1971 Holt started her Locators, sculptural “seeing devices” comprising T-shaped industrial piping to be looked through with one eye. Drawing attention to visual perception and place, the Locators first focused on views from and in her studio, expanding into the landscape and, with the landmark Sun Tunnels (1973–76), to astronomical time. Located in Utah’s Great Basin Desert, ​Sun Tunnels ​comprises four concrete structures arranged in a cross formation, positioned to frame the sun as it rises and sets during the solstices. Perforations in the tunnels follow the constellations of Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricorn, allowing light projections to be cast inside.

Whether emanating from the stars or plugged to electricity grids, the perceptual qualities of light fascinated Holt. The room-sized installation Mirrors of Light (1973–74) materializes light reflections and brings awareness to the body in space through the careful positioning of mirrors, a theatre spotlight, and the perceiver. In the 1980s Holt’s exploration of systems moved to the built environment with her Systems Works, sculptures connecting to usually unseen internal architectural organs. Electrical System (1982), for example, comprises more than a hundred light bulbs connected to the museum’s power system which Holt described as being “part of open-ended systems, part of the world.”

Investigations of light and systems continued at a larger scale in Holt’s outdoor sculptures. Many, but not all, of Holt’s sculptural ideas were realized. Consistently she used drawing as a medium to think through and articulate sculptural thinking. Her works on paper range from careful detailing to mathematical calculations and full renderings.

In 2014, Nancy Holt willed the Holt/Smithson Foundation into being. The artist-endowed foundation is dedicated to the art and ideas of Holt and her husband the artist Robert Smithson and will continue to develop their distinctive creative legacies.

 

Nancy Holt: Sun Tunnels (1973–76)  
Great Basin Desert, Utah
Collection Dia Art Foundation with support from Holt/Smithson Foundation
Video: Charles Uibel/Great Salt Lake Photography

© Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation, licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

 

Works
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Sun Tunnels, 1973–76

Nancy Holt
Sun Tunnels, 1973–76
Concrete, steel, earth
280 × 2620 × 1620 cm
110 1/4 × 1031 1/2 × 637 7/8 inches

© Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation; Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

More views
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Sunlight in Sun Tunnels, 1976

Nancy Holt
Sunlight in Sun Tunnels, 1976
Archival inkjet print
127.3 × 156.2 cm
50 1/8 × 62 1/2 inches

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of "Sun Tunnels", 1975

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of 'Sun Tunnels', 1975
Graphite and twelve black and white photographs on paper
36.2 × 51.4 cm
14 1/4 × 20 1/4 inches

More views
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Mirrors of Light II, 1974

Nancy Holt
Mirrors of Light II, 1974
10 mirrors, 650 watt quartz light
24.1 cm (mirror diameter)
9 1/2 in (mirror diameter)

More views
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Holes of Light, 1973

Nancy Holt
Holes of Light, 1973
650 watt quart lights, polyurethane board, graphite

© Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation; Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawings, 1978

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawings
Inkjet print on archival rag paper

More views
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
View through a Sand Dune, 1972

Nancy Holt
View through a Sand Dune, 1972
Cement-asbestos pipe, sand
22.9 × 22.9 × 152.4 cm
9 × 9 × 60 inches

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972
Inkjet prints on archival rag paper (19 parts)
38.4 × 38.4 cm (each)
15 1/8 × 15 1/8 inches (each)

More views
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Electrical Lighting, 1985

Nancy Holt
Electrical Lighting, 1985
steel conduit, cages, chains and light bulbs
dimensions specified

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Concrete Poem, 1968

Nancy Holt
Concrete Poem, 1968
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
58.4 × 58.4 cm
23 × 23 inches

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Electrical System, 1982

Nancy Holt
Electrical System, 1982
System Sculpture: electricity, light bulbs, conduit, sockets
Dimensions variable; site responsive

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Hammond, 1969

Nancy Holt
Hammond, 1969
Ink on paper
27.9 × 21.6 cm
11 × 8 1/2 inches

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
60 inkjet prints on archival rag paper
45.7 × 45.7 cm
18 × 18 inches

More views
Details
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Sun Tunnels, 1973–76
Concrete, steel, earth
280 × 2620 × 1620 cm
110 1/4 × 1031 1/2 × 637 7/8 inches

© Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation; Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Sun Tunnels, 1973–76

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Sun Tunnels, 1973–76

Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Sunlight in Sun Tunnels, 1976
Archival inkjet print
127.3 × 156.2 cm
50 1/8 × 62 1/2 inches

Nancy Holt
Sunlight in Sun Tunnels, 1976
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of 'Sun Tunnels', 1975
Graphite and twelve black and white photographs on paper
36.2 × 51.4 cm
14 1/4 × 20 1/4 inches

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of "Sun Tunnels", 1975
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of 'Sun Tunnels', 1975

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of "Sun Tunnels", 1975
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of 'Sun Tunnels', 1975

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of "Sun Tunnels", 1975
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of 'Sun Tunnels', 1975

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of "Sun Tunnels", 1975
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of 'Sun Tunnels', 1975

Nancy Holt
Preparatory Drawing of "Sun Tunnels", 1975
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Mirrors of Light II, 1974
10 mirrors, 650 watt quartz light
24.1 cm (mirror diameter)
9 1/2 in (mirror diameter)

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Mirrors of Light II, 1974

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Mirrors of Light II, 1974

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Mirrors of Light II, 1974

Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Holes of Light, 1973
650 watt quart lights, polyurethane board, graphite

© Holt/Smithson Foundation and Dia Art Foundation; Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawings
Inkjet print on archival rag paper

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawings, 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (14), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (14), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (15), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (15), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (16), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (16), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (17), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (17), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (18), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (18), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (19), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (19), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (20), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (20), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (22), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (22)
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (R04.08), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (R04.08), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (R10.13), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (R10.13), 1978
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (R20.36), 1978
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
49.5 × 76.2 cm
19 1/2 × 30 inches

Nancy Holt
Light and Shadow Photo Drawing (R20.36), 1978
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
View through a Sand Dune, 1972
Cement-asbestos pipe, sand
22.9 × 22.9 × 152.4 cm
9 × 9 × 60 inches

Nancy Holt
View through a Sand Dune, 1972
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972
Inkjet prints on archival rag paper (19 parts)
38.4 × 38.4 cm (each)
15 1/8 × 15 1/8 inches (each)

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
California Sun Signs, 1972


Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Electrical Lighting, 1985
steel conduit, cages, chains and light bulbs
dimensions specified

Nancy Holt
Electrical Lighting, 1985
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Concrete Poem, 1968
Inkjet print on archival rag paper
58.4 × 58.4 cm
23 × 23 inches

Nancy Holt
Concrete Poem, 1968
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Electrical System, 1982
System Sculpture: electricity, light bulbs, conduit, sockets
Dimensions variable; site responsive

Nancy Holt
Electrical System, 1982
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Hammond, 1969
Ink on paper
27.9 × 21.6 cm
11 × 8 1/2 inches

Nancy Holt
Hammond, 1969
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
60 inkjet prints on archival rag paper
45.7 × 45.7 cm
18 × 18 inches

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968

Nancy Holt
Western Graveyards, 1968
Details
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Current and Upcoming
Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt, Electrical System II: Bellman Circuit (1982)
David Bellman Gallery, Toronto, Canada. Photography: Nancy Holt. © Holt/Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Light and Language
Group Exhibition
Nancy Holt with A.K. Burns, Matthew Day Jackson, Dennis McNulty, Charlotte Moth, and Katie Paterson
March 28–October 10, 2021
Lismore Castle Arts, Ireland

Nancy Holt’s work continues to vibrate with artists working today. Light and Language invites A.K. Burns, Matthew Day Jackson, Dennis McNulty, Charlotte Moth, and Katie Paterson to explore ideas of light and language alongside Nancy Holt at Lismore Castle Arts. This is the first time Holt’s work has been seen with twenty-first-century artists drawing from her legacies.

Link
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt / Hanne Darboven 
Time goes on and remains
March 24–May 5, 2021
Online

Sprüth Magers is pleased to announce the representation of Nancy Holt, in cooperation with Holt/Smithson Foundation. Celebrating this collaboration, the gallery presents an online exhibition between Nancy Holt and Hanne Darboven. A previously unseen work with a heartfelt inscription—sent to Holt from Darboven in 1973—links the two groundbreaking artists together and lays the foundation of this focused presentation, spanning large-scale installations, photographic series and works on paper. The works demonstrate Holt and Darboven’s shared interest in revealing the particular qualities of time experienced, time measured and time passing.

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Nancy Holt
Fall 2021
Berlin

Sprüth Magers is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition by Nancy Holt at the Berlin gallery, featuring the room sized installation, Mirrors of Light I

Holt was interested in the use of light as a medium, while simultaneously examining it as subject matter in its own right. In this installation, light is a conceptual entity and a physical reality, a practical resource and an aesthetic object. As is the case with the majority of Holt’s oeuvre, ​Mirrors of Light I creates an opportunity for self-examination through the perceptions that arise in the face of her work. 

Nancy Holt
Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt
Fall 2021
Los Angeles

Sprüth Magers is pleased to announce the first solo exhibition by Nancy Holt at the Los Angeles gallery, presenting a journey through three decades of Holt’s influential artistic practice. A pioneer of site-specific installation and the moving image, Holt was a member of the earth, land and conceptual art movements. Her extensive artistic output spanned concrete poetry, audio, film, video, photography, slideworks, ephemeral gestures, drawings, room-sized installations, earthworks, books and public sculpture commissions. 

Press

Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels: Interview with Dia curator Kelly Kivland
Sculpturenature Online, Interview by Raisa Rexer, July 3, 2019

Passages: Nancy Holt
Artforum International online, article by Lucy R. Lippard, May 2014

Sun Tunnels
Artforum International online, article by Nancy Holt, April 1977

Biography

Nancy Holt (1938–2014). Holt is known for her earthworks, public sculpture and installation work, including the large-scale environmental works Sun Tunnels (1973–76, Great Basin Desert, Utah) and Dark Star Park (1970–84, Arlington County, Virginia). The retrospective exhibition Nancy Holt: Sightlines travelled from Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York (2010) to Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2011), Graham Foundation of Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago (2011), Tufts University Art Gallery at The Aidekman Arts Center, Boston (2012), Santa Fe Arts Institute, Santa Fe (2012) and Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Further solo exhibitions include Dia Art Foundation, New York (2018) and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (both in 2013). Selected group exhibitions include Museum der Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Germany (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012–13) and Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2011). 

Education
1959–63 Tufts University, Somerville, MA
Awards, Grants and Fellowships
2013 Lifetime Achievement Award, International Sculpture Center, New York
2012 Chevalier of the of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, French Government
1995 Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Florida, Tampa
1988 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships
1985 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships
1983 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships
1978 Guggenheim Fellowship
1978 New York Creative Artist Fellowships
1978 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships
1975 New York Creative Artist Fellowships
1975 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships
Public Collections
Dia Art Foundation, New York
Miami University Art Museum
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen, Germany
University of Massachusetts, Boston
University of South Florida, Tampa
Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City
Western Washington University, Bellingham
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York