Dia Chelsea reopens with an exhibition of newly commissioned works by Lucy Raven. Following a three-year engagement with Dia, Raven presents two kinetic light sculptures occupying the entirety of the former Alcamo marble-cutting factory on West 22nd Street in New York City. In an adjacent gallery, she exhibits a film that was shot over two years at a concrete plant in Bellevue, Idaho. Together, these two projects explore properties of speed, pressure, and materiality (both geological and synthetic) in the context of the Western United States. Born in Arizona, Raven often considers the complex histories of this region’s formation and depiction, as well as its contemporary role in global commerce, communication, and development. In doing so, her work engages the legacy of the Land artists that Dia has supported since the early 1970s. Incorporating moving images, photography, sculpture, and sound, her immersive installations address issues of labor, technology, and the hidden mechanisms of power.
Lucy Raven is made possible by major support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. Significant support is provided by the Berkowitz Contemporary Foundation, the Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation, and Dia’s Director’s Council: Fady Jameel, Susan and Larry Marx, Leslie and Mac McQuown, Alice and Tom Tisch, and Sara and Evan Williams. Generous support is also provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional support provided by the Cowles Charitable Trust, Jeffrey Deitch, Molly Gochman, Agnes Gund, Slobodan Randjelovic, Jamie and Robert Soros, and those who wish to remain anonymous.
Lucy Raven’s practice encompasses animation, moving-image installation, sculpture, and sound. Her work frequently engages with the United States’ historically complex role in global commerce and infrastructure as it unfolds within its western landscape. Two of Raven’s most recent projects, which extend these concerns, were commissioned for Dia Chelsea, New York. Casters X-2 + Casters X-3 (2021) is an installation of kinetic light sculptures that belongs to Raven’s ongoing Casters series, which she began in 2016. Ready Mix (2021) is an immersive installation featuring a forty-five-minute film shot over two years at a concrete plant in central Idaho. Together, these projects address the formation, depiction, and surveillance of landscapes and civic spaces, proposing abstraction as a tool for (re)perceiving these sites.
Each of Raven’s Casters sculptures consists of two lights set in customized moving armatures that borrow their form, in part, from rotocasters: devices used to mold objects in the round. As the sculptures rotate in 360 degrees, their projected beams of light scan the surfaces of the gallery. The Casters move dynamically thanks to an internal amplified slip ring, an electromechanical device that was initially used during World War II to spin gun directors, which in turn were used to survey the sky for moving aerial targets. This technology was later adapted for a variety of film uses that range from animation to experimental film. The sculptures emerge from Raven’s longstanding interest in the ways in which optical technologies used to survey, measure, and control have been adapted from warfare for use in the motion picture industry. As such, the Casters toggle between the disciplinary function of the searchlight and spectacle of the spotlight.
The armatures of Casters X-2 + Casters X-3 are made of hot-dip galvanized steel, a common industrial material made by coating the metal in zinc to protect against corrosion caused by exposure to the elements. Galvanized steel is used for a variety of infrastructural purposes, including reinforcing concrete. In this regard, the sculptures also gesture toward the language of the built environment.
Ready Mix records the churning transformation of mineral aggregates and cement binders into one of the world’s most ubiquitous building materials: ready-mix concrete. The film’s extra-wide aspect ratio references the surveying origins of the anamorphic format. Developed during World War I to give military-tank operators more expansive views of the terrain, the format later became a staple of Western genre films. Ready Mix collapses this perspectival depth into visual flatness and material density. In doing so, it counters the ways in which Westerns traditionally frame the landscape to perpetuate the myth of the so-called frontier as receding, empty, and untamed.
Ready Mix also expands on Raven’s preoccupation with the extraction of natural resources, changes of material states, and manufacturing processes that generate the physical substrates for today’s interconnected economies. At times the film evokes the temporary liquidity of concrete as well as the fluid (while seemingly intractable) forces that shape the development of infrastructure. Staged within the context of the rapidly changing Chelsea neighborhood—where new condominium and office construction is redefining the cityscape—Ready Mix also addresses the relentless thrust of urban and suburban development.
— Alexis Lowry
Lucy Raven was born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1977. She received a BFA in studio art and a BA in art history from the University of Arizona, Tucson, in 2000, and an MFA from Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in 2008. Her work has been exhibited in solo presentations at the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno (2010); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2012); Portikus, Frankfurt (2014); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014); VOX centre de l’image contemporaine, Montreal (2015); Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio (2016); and Serpentine Galleries, London (2016–17). Select group shows include those at Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2008–09); Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus (2010); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2013); and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2018–19). Additionally, Raven’s work was included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, New York; 2016 Montreal Biennial; and 2018 Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh. With Vic Brooks and Evan Calder Williams, she is a founding member of 13BC, a moving-image research and production collective. Raven teaches at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York.
1. Casters X-2 + X-3, 2021
Galvanized steel frames, stage lights, motors, and control system
2. Ready Mix, 2021
Black-and-white video, quadraphonic sound, aluminum and plywood screen, and aluminum seating structure
Dia Art Foundation
Casters X-2 + Casters X-3
Fabrication: Mystic Scenic Studios
Automation: Creative Conners
Technical Design: Conduit
Director and editor: Lucy Raven
Composer: Deantoni Parks
Aerial photography: Yancy Caldwell
Principal photography and location sound recording: Spencer Cordovano/F11
Consulting editor: Mike Olenick
Grip: Banwer Rigging and Grip
Re-recording mixer: Dave Paterson
Sound Post: HARBOR
Color correction/online edit: Ryan Jenkins
Screen engineering and fabrication: MEER Precision and South Side Design & Building
Video and lighting consultant: Glen Fogel
Lucy Raven was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1977. She lives and works in New York City.
Produced in conjunction with the exhibition Lucy Raven, this publication reflects on the artist’s commissioned works that inaugurate the new Dia Chelsea, New York, which opened in April 2021.