Mike Nelson

Modern Art Oxford

An artistic homage is by no means a straightforward gesture—it can be an act of cannibalism or one-upmanship as much as of indebtedness or respect. Like the cartoon snake that swallows some distinctively shaped object and distends into the same form, the tributary artwork consumes the object of its admiration, cloaking it with its own skin. But unlike the snake, which usually gets to cough its meal up again, intact, the artistic homage irreversibly transforms the prized object. Mike Nelson’s show “Triple Bluff Canyon” did just this, paying an intricate tribute to the work of Robert Smithson and simultaneously turning it into raw material for a practice that’s fundamentally very different.

Featuring three related but discrete constructed environments, the show diverged from the labyrinthine single-installation formula Nelson has become known for. One, mimicking a run-down cinema foyer,

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