Certain art experiences stick out in the memories of those who grew up in Dallas in the ‘80s and ‘90s, in particular, gallivanting over the bridges of Patricia Johanson’s Fair Park Lagoon after a field trip to the Science Place. The work was mysterious then, as it is now, its biomorphic, Sedona-pink forms not quite natural but in sensuous contrast to the monumental art deco park around it.
Commissioned as a rehabilitative effort for a stagnant flood-control basin in the park, the project didn’t go according to Johanson’s plan, but when it was completed in 1986, she deemed it a successful public sculpture, and the community’s experience of it is imaginative and embodied.
Johanson’s Lagoon serves as an offsite anchor for the Nasher’s exhibition “Groundswell: Women of Land Art,” opening Sept. 23. An ambitious reappraisal of the land art movement, the project examines the careers of 12 of its most significant and sustained practitioners: Lita Albuquerque, Alice Aycock, Beverly Buchanan, Agnes Denes, Maren Hassinger, Nancy Holt, Patricia Johanson, Ana Mendieta, Mary Miss, Jody Pinto, Michelle Stuart and Meg Webster.
As the exhibition’s title implies, the notable men of land art — Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria — with their monumental gestures of dominance over nature, are absent. Instead, Nasher curator Leigh A. Arnold sets out to expand the field of land art to include subtler, more poetic acts on and in collaboration with the landscape, like Denes’ golden wheat field planted on a landfill beneath the Twin Towers in 1982.
A new commission from Mary Miss, Stream Trace: Dallas Branch Crossing, quietly marks the path of a buried stream that flows from Uptown Dallas to the Trinity River in the Design District with a series of reflective X’s on stakes. Over the course of the exhibition, Dallas-based collaborators, including artists, writers, scientists and historians, will lead walking tours that draw attention to unnoticed aspects of the site.
On opening weekend, the Nasher will host a two-day symposium diving deeper into the themes explored by featured artists and underscoring the historic significance of the exhibition. The first day features several scholars who contributed to the show’s sumptuously illustrated catalog, and a rare round table discussion with Albuquerque, Aycock, Johanson, Miss and Pinto. On the second day, scholars decamp to Fair Park for a special program on Johanson’s Lagoon.
“Groundswell: Women of Land Art” runs from Sept. 23 through Jan. 7, 2024, at the Nasher Sculpture Center, 2001 Flora St., Dallas. For details, visit nashersculpturecenter.org.