Past Exhibitions — 2015

Nancy Holt

9 October – 21 November 2015


Parafin is delighted to announce the first ever exhibition devoted to Nancy Holt’s Locator sculptures. This seminal body of work, which Holt inaugurated in the early 1970s, has been very rarely seen. Nonetheless, within her oeuvre the Locators are crucially important. The innovations and experimentation that they embody lead directly to Holt’s iconic Land Art work, Sun Tunnels (1973-76) and inform many of her groundbreaking public commissions of the 1980s and 90s.

The exhibition was conceived in discussion with the artist before her death in 2014. It will include a selected group of Locators alongside preparatory drawings and related photographic pieces, including some works which have never been exhibited. As such it will shed new light on a little-known but important body of work. For Holt the Locators were breakthrough sculptures. They were the first works in which she physically directed and defined the viewer’s gaze thereby objectifying the process of looking, a process she would return to again and again throughout her career, particularly in her large-scale outdoor sculptures.

The Locators are simple metal sculptures fabricated in steel. Each Locator consists of one or more vertical pipes supporting a horizontal pipe through which the viewer is invited to look. Sometimes the view through the pipe is perfectly aligned with a ‘loci’, an object in the space or a shape painted on the wall. On other occasions the viewer’s gaze is directed at a mirror to give the experience of ‘seeing oneself seeing’. Often conceived as site-specific pieces, responding to the particularities of a given exhibition space or landscape, the Locators frequently directed the viewer’s gaze at phenomena which might otherwise be overlooked, such as a architectural detail seen through a window. A number were conceived for gallery spaces and it is this group that Parafin’s exhibition will focus on.

These first experiments with directed vision went on to inform Holt’s important early film and video works including Going Around in Circles (1973), Zeroing In (1973) and Points of View (1974) as well as major installations such as Holes of Light (1973), recently shown at the Hayward Gallery, London. Ultimately the Locators can be seen as indexical works for Holt’s practice, making it all the more surprising that they have not been seen for so many years.

Parafin represents the Estate of Nancy Holt, with whom the exhibition has been organised in close collaboration.

Selected Works

Nancy Holt
Sunlight in Sun Tunnels, 1976
Composite inkjet print from original 35 mm colour transparencies; printed 2012
127.3 × 156.2 cm


Nancy Holt (1938-2014) was a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements and a pioneer of both site-specific installation and film and video work. Holt is best known for her iconic work Sun Tunnels (1973-76) located in the Great Basin Desert, Utah, but worked in many media, including concrete poetry, audio, video, photographs, site-specific installations, artist’s books, and major public sculpture commissions.

Nancy Holt’s work has been exhibited internationally since 1970. She showed at major museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate Modern, London, Hayward Gallery, London, Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Kunsthallen Brandts, Centro de Cultura Contemporania, Barcelona, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hirschorn Museum, Washington. Her work is held in important public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, MoMA, New York, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen. Works by Holt are permanently installed at the University of South Florida, Tampa; University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; Rosslyn, Virginia; Miami University Art Museum, Ohio; Toronto, Ontario and in Avignon, France and Nokia, Finland, amongst others.

In 2010-12 a retrospective exhibition, Nancy Holt: Sightlines travelled from the Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York, to venues in Karlsruhe, Boston, Chicago, Santa Fe and Salt Lake City. The exhibition was accompanied by a major monograph published by the University of California Press. Other notable recent exhibitions include ‘Nancy Holt: Photoworks’, Haunch of Venison, London (2012), ‘Nancy Holt: Land Art’, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2013) and ‘Nancy Holt: Selected Film and Photo Works’, at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2013). In addition her work was recently included in major survey exhibitions including ‘Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012-13) and ‘Light Show’ at the Hayward Gallery, London (2013).

In 2012 Nancy Holt was made a Chevalier of the of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government. In 2013 she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Sculpture Center in New York. She passed away in early 2014.