Arizona Remains (2016)
The following is a version of a text written by JAJF Director Presca Ahn that accompanied the exhibition of the 2016 Jeffrey Ahn, Jr. Fellowship project, Arizona Remains, at Project 1612 in Peoria, IL:
"In 2015, Richard Medina (American, b. 1999) bought an acre of land in northeastern Arizona through an online auction. The lot is located in the desert, several miles from the nearest town; on the land is a dry riverbed, as well as two small hills. The following year, with a grant from The Jeffrey Ahn, Jr. Fellowship, Medina traveled 1,500 miles from his hometown of Palatine, IL to his purchased lot, to create a work of art in relationship to the land. The resulting sculpture, Arizona Remains (2016), is a cast of the riverbed on the lot.
"While alluding to the Land Art tradition, Arizona Remains is principally an artifact of this young artist’s process. Having driven to his property in a pickup truck with 600 pounds of cold mix asphalt, Medina began by shoveling and packing down the asphalt into the dry riverbed. After the setting of the asphalt, the cast was unearthed and dug out, then loaded into the truck to be driven back east to Illinois. The entire process took five days. Made principally of asphalt, the completed sculpture measures ten feet in length with a top layer of clay from the riverbed itself; it is in four pieces, divided by cracks that occurred during transportation. Each piece has been turned upside-down, to reveal the impression left by the riverbed on the asphalt.
"Arizona Remains resulted from Medina’s fascination with the American West as a cultural, historical, and geographical site. Equally fascinating for him is its function as a setting for mythic narratives of masculinity– recurring tales, however fictional or constructed, of a lone hero undertaking a westward-facing quest or monumental transformation of the western landscape. Such myths and archetypes appeal to Medina, who is interested in playing with strict genre conventions in order to generate new frameworks. 'I find cowboy westerns interesting for this very reason,' he says. 'These films create and recreate settings and situations almost at random from a metaphorical grab bag of character and props. The cowboy’s relationship with the sheriff changes from movie to movie, but there is always a rigid structure in place for how the cowboy can act and how the sheriff is allowed to respond.'
"Identifying land ownership as the basis of countless westward-facing narratives, including those in recent art history, Medina purchased his land in Arizona via online auction, reenacting the tradition of acquiring western land in a mode scaled to his age, his means, and the contemporary moment. He then devised a project in relation to the purchased land that reflected the scope of his artistic ambition– his impulse to extend, excavate, and explore on a grand scale. A topographical object, Arizona Remains embodies the tension between the myths of the American West and its basic physical reality. Medina’s use of asphalt as his primary medium refers to the highways he traveled to reach his westerly destination– in brief, his artistic journey– while the sculpture’s top layer of riverbed clay is an acknowledgment of the natural essence of the place, regardless of Medina’s ownership or intervention. Playing with the “rigid structure” of Land Art, he has developed a highly personalized idiom."
The Jeffrey Ahn, Jr. Fellowship