A Weekend In Marfa

13 Nov


Last weekend C and I accompanied friends of hers to Marfa, TX. Or as I referred to it, “way out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere Texas.”

Note: I have updated the post with some photos that I recently recovered from the damaged memory card took during my weekend there.

Why exactly would anyone in their right mind drive six hours (some 440 miles) to visit a town of about 2000? It seems that Marfa is becoming some sort of (and I hate this word) new Hipster hangout. For a town of this size it has a disturbingly large assortment of overpriced (not all as good as they would like to think) restaurants as well as a collection of art galleries.

So why did we go? The male half of the couple that we went with is a musician and artist. He was playing at the opening of the Marfa branch of an Austin gallery, Yard Dog. He was also showing there. An evening of modern art and modern music, if you will.

Saturday was a busy day. Wandering the almost abandoned looking (few people around) center of town we found a rather nice bookstore, coffee shop and the aforementioned art galleries. One even had a rather large collection of original Andy Warhol works! Impressive and interesting, hell that collection would be impressive at The Hirshhorn.

Downtown Marfa
Downtown Marfa (well part of it)
Two other galleries were explored. and then lunch obtained. Lunch was a surprisingly delicious thin crust pizza at Pizza Foundation. The best pizza I have had since leaving New Jersey two years ago. Strange and unfortunate that I had to come to Marfa to be so delighted.

Afterwards we agreed to meet for a tour of The Chinati Foundation. From their website:

The Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati is a contemporary art museum based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd. The specific intention of Chinati is to preserve and present to the public permanent large-scale installations by a limited number of artists. […]

…The Chinati Foundation is located on 340 acres of land on the site of former Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa, Texas. Construction and installation at the site began in 1979…

Actually it is a pretty impressive place, and the inspiration for this post. Here I am enjoying the limited shade and waiting for the tour to begin.

Waiting For Art
Waiting for Art
We show up at Chinati for the 2PM tour and are introduced to our Affable Young Guide. A young man six months into a three month internship. Other than a propensity to speak a little fast, he was a nice kid, friendly and knowledgeable. He takes us into the first of six U shaped buildings. They are refurbished 1930s era barracks. The insides windowless expanses of white drywall and polished concrete. Two ordinary windows at one end. At the other, two tilted parallel corridors each filled with softly glowing colored fluorescent tubes. Kinda pretty.

Note that the six “buildings” are actually twelve (!!) original structures joined into six total buildings. Each one filled at one end with a slightly different arrangement of colored fluorescent tubes. The first few we enjoyed. By the “sixth” building we were up to a brisk walk.

Buildings filled with fluorescent tubes
The female part of the other couple commented in a Monday email.

So glad you were there. It would not have been near as fun without you. Steve was a trooper, I’m not sure any of us thought we would be on our feet ALL DAY Saturday. Looking at neon that would never end. I mean, I GOT IT the first time.

My companion posing in front of Art
Once we had our fill of pastel neon colors we were introduced to the other installations. One (seemingly absent from the Chinati website) was composed of very long sheets of sheet metal loosely bent and arranged into rather simple shapes. Perhaps a dozen or less of these in one double building. The Affable Young Guide informed us that the artist was at Chinati for two years putting together this installation. After exiting that display the male half of the other couple had an interesting comment.

“So what did he do with the other 700 days?”

Everyone in the tour group agreed.

Another installation (interesting in a similar way) was of note because of the instructions that The Affable Young Guide gave us before entering the building containing the installation of Roni Horn. Do have a quick look before reading further.

“No more than four people are allowed to enter the building at one time, at the artists request.”

Words Fail me though this one does come to mind.

All in all Chinati was interesting. Possibly not for the reasons that the founder had intended. And don’t get me started on the installation that was composed of sheets of paper glued to a wall with vague barely visible smudges on all thirty-six sheets.

The West Texas, Chinati landscape on a beautiful November afternoon(larger size here)
Honestly there were some interesting bits and some great scenery (like above) mixed in with the stunningly incomprehensible that made it (possibility probably) worth the ten dollar ticket price. Next time I’ll bring my reading glasses.

After that we went back to the room for a quick nap, a visit to see the famous Marfa Lights. (As luck would have it we actually saw a dozen or so of the elusive lights.) And then on to the gallery opening. Where a good time was had by all.

Marfa must indeed be a place where hip and interesting people hang out as Lance Armstong was there at the opening with a couple of friends and an entourage of three giggling, self obsessed, blonde girls who seemed interested only in themselves. Ahh Marfa, thy new name is truly New Hollywood.


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