Critics’ Picks

Jared Steffensen, Rah! Rah! Rah!, 2011, plastic cups, dimensions variable.

Jared Steffensen, Rah! Rah! Rah!, 2011, plastic cups, dimensions variable.

Salt Lake City

Jared Steffensen

Nox Contemporary
440 South 400 West Suite H
April 15–June 3, 2011

Surrounded by a crown of enormous mountains, and boasting the dictum “This is the place,” Salt Lake City compels artistic sublimation of the monumental landscape that surrounds this place and dwarfs its residents. “Lofty Peaks and Wide Streets,” Jared Steffensen’s first solo exhibition at Nox Contemporary, offers up twenty-one pieces in various media that inventory the experience of place, and toy with American nostalgia for the Western frontier. Steffensen jockeys the intimate and the inventive, presenting low-tech configurations of material that seek to reconcile the human scale of personal experience with the mythological intensity of geologic and social histories.

Three handmade ladders in Lofty Peaks (all works 2011) are painted in gradients ranging from brown to white and capped with white glitter to form scalable mountains. In Rah! Rah! Rah!, plastic red party cups are arranged in rural brambles to spell GO TEAM, an oxymoronic cheer for nature, writ in trash. Your Hood vs. Mine is an ersatz hand of Luke Skywalker that thrusts from the wall, a small pine tree emerging from the base of his lightsaber. The After Party is a Zen-like audio recording of the sounds after a snowstorm.

Steffernsen’s steadfast (and mildly humorous) allegiance to place is furthered with several pieces that explore the very roads that lead to and from Salt Lake City. A two-channel video piece, Walls, tracks the passing landscape as the artist drives the length of the easternmost and westernmost roads of the Salt Lake Valley. Mimicking these opposing trajectories in Steffensen’s piece Round Trip, two lines of hand-scrawled text circumnavigate the room and chart the songs that carried the artist on a drive to and from Los Angeles. The entire show is a bit like a mix tape on an epic American road trip, surveying that which lures you away from––and keeps you coming back to––a sense of place and home.