Luisa Lambri, Untitled (Sun Tunnels, #07), 2014, ink-jet print, 32 3/4 × 26 3/4". From the series “Sun Tunnels,” 2014.

Luisa Lambri, Untitled (Sun Tunnels, #07), 2014, ink-jet print, 32 3/4 × 26 3/4". From the series “Sun Tunnels,” 2014.

Luisa Lambri

Luisa Lambri, Untitled (Sun Tunnels, #07), 2014, ink-jet print, 32 3/4 × 26 3/4". From the series “Sun Tunnels,” 2014.

After years of photographing modernist domestic architecture, Luisa Lambri has turned her lens to works by artists of the same era, from Donald Judd and Lucio Fontana to Lygia Clark. She shoots her new subjects from the same perspective with which she has long approached her vivisection of architecture, treating the artworks as if they were places. It is no accident that she has chosen to interpret the efforts of artists who have likewise built their practices around investigations of space and architecture, artists who revel in the counterpoint between solid and void, the dialectic between interior and exterior, and the interconnected values of surface and light.

“Sun Tunnels,” 2014, the series of eight photographs that was on view in her recent exhibition at Studio Guenzani, is dedicated to Nancy Holt’s eponymous earthwork, 1973–76—four eighteen-foot-long concrete tunnels built on forty acres in the Great Basin Desert in Utah. In these images, as in her earlier series, Lambri treats the enormous sculptures like architectural spaces, focusing on the interior. The pictures were taken from the innards of Holt’s tunnels, six of them shot from a vantage point facing their openings. The resulting views are abstract—they would be impossible to identify without the help of their titles—reading here only as thresholds between dark interiors and light sources. Viewers are left to intuit what the place on the other side is, as the exterior that we see framed is white, burned out by the blinding glare of the sun. This violent light also obliterates any sense of the tunnel as a solid presence; the cement is effectively transformed into an airy and abstract luminous material. The minimal variations among these six photographs are a result of changes in the natural light. Only in one of the works, Untitled (Sun Tunnels, #09), can the viewer grasp the physical placement of these structures in the landscape, which appears like a mirage beyond the mouths of the tunnels. For two other photographs in the series (#11 and #12), Lambri turned her gaze to the sculptures’ walls, capturing marks in the cement and a series of holes perforated by Holt according to arrangements of celestial constellations. Once again, the light produces abstractions, helping Lambri achieve a careful balance between precise control and generosity toward the unexpected. As a result, the graphic rigor of her images is anything but cold. Her engagement with space is intimate: Her body is inside these pictured places, breathing them in.

Holt conceived Sun Tunnels to be a structure that weds the tangible dimensions of the human body with the vastness of the cosmos and the seemingly infinite desert. In essence, the four tunnels are a clock by which to measure the cyclical nature of time; the passing sun and moon rays penetrate the tunnels’ holes, tracing the earth’s movements on the rough cement. As she established communication between artwork, sky, and landscape, Holt was aware of the propensity of the desert’s intense light and heat to affect perception, often rendering objects immaterial. Thus, these atmospheric qualities are substantial aspects of the work. Indeed, Lambri’s images stray provocatively from the usual documentation of Sun Tunnels, because she understands, through elective affinities, the transfiguration created by the light that reveals the profound and moving human sense of Holt’s work.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.