Rick Silva, an artist based in Eugene, Oregon, is one of the 61 artists featured in State of the Art 2020. His 18-minute video installation, Western Fronts, is a hauntingly beautiful and profoundly moving nature documentary of four national monuments—Cascade-Siskiyou (Oregon and California), Gold Butte (Nevada), Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Bear Ears (both in Utah)—created in response to recent government action.
Soaring over sprawling terrain in the American west, the drone footage in Rick Silva’s work would be utterly picturesque if not for an obtrusive black mass and ominous soundtrack. Like an X-ray penetrating skin to reveal bone beneath, Silva’s digital interruptions strip away the surface beauty of these four locations, reducing them to geometric forms devoid of anything more than structure.
It’s a simple—and frankly depressing—way to see nature. But that’s also the point.
Silva’s work stems from a 2017 piece of government legislation pertaining to these four national monuments. This legislation drastically reduced the size of each and opened them up to companies interested in mining there. These lands hold environmental diversity and sacred Indigenous significance, but also, it seems, a desirable amount of mineral wealth. This friction recast these sites as places of conflict, making Silva’s title, Western Fronts, an apt commentary as it references contested territories during military confrontations.
Silva’s digitally rendered versions of landscapes are painful reminders that “progress” comes at a cost. His imagery positions two views of the same land next to each other for consideration: one lush and verdant, another reductive and alien.
About Rick Silva
Rick Silva’s videos and installations envision near-future ecologies altered by technology and climate change. Silva was born in 1977 in Brazil and lives in Eugene Oregon where he is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Oregon. He has exhibited his work in over 20 solo and two-person exhibitions including Transfer Gallery in New York and LA, Wil Aballe Art Projects in Vancouver, New Shelter Plan in Copenhagen, Interstitial Gallery in Seattle, The Ski Club in Milwaukee, and Holding Contemporary in Portland Oregon. Silva’s work has been featured in publications such as WIRED magazine and Rhizome’s book Net Art Anthology.
State of the Art 2020 is supported in part by: Bank of America (Lead Sponsor), Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Christie’s, The Coca-Cola Company, Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Trott Family Foundation, Alturas Foundation, Bracken Darrell, Fred and Shelby Gans. National tour sponsored by Bank of America.
Written by Alejo Benedetti, associate curator, contemporary art, Crystal Bridges.
Photos courtesy of Rick Silva.