context…Kevin Sudeith…001

Planes, Trains and Satellites

Where are we headed?  How will it be different?  What will be forgotten?

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Satellite Petroglyph, Sumatra Hills, Montana

While referencing mankind’s oldest and most permanent form of representation—the petroglyph—Kevin Sudeith explores the uncertain present and unwritten future of contemporary life. His rock carvings could survive tens of thousand of years; as many of their ancient predecessors already have. In this way, the works become defined by an almost extraterrestrial, futuristic wonder. They exist as both art and artifact—as an articulation of our world today and as a point of communication with the unknown of infinite tomorrows.

This sense of curiosity runs all the way to the root of Sudeith’s process, guiding his nomadic search throughout the United States and abroad for adequate and accessible rocks on which to carve. His work is unpremeditated. He depicts what he discovers: local people, houses, machinery, technology, folklore, flora and fauna—all the images that make up the stories of our time.

Cowboy Panel Petroglyph at Hidden Bear, Telluride, Colorado

Chiseling into hard rock with diamond and carbide tools is arduous work, and a frieze can take up to three months to complete. Precisely because of this, the process becomes fused to the result. Instead of being a stand-alone piece, each petroglyph acts as an in situ documentation of a performance, complete only after the artist has painted the carving, mixed his own paper pulp, plastered it over the rock to make an embossed print, and departed from the community. The performance—a kind of excerpt from culture—becomes encoded in the carving, waiting to be interpreted by whoever (or whatever) will inhabit the earth in future millennia.

Kenmare Petroglyph, Kenmare, North Dakota

In the present, each petroglyph encapsulates on one rock the elemental questions from which an entire creative genre is based. Firstly, where are we headed? How will it be different? What will be forgotten? These are inquiries without answers, hypothesized in the form of Science Fiction. For despite the stability of their medium, Sudeith’s works still carry this sense of the fleeting. Something that transcends time inevitably calls to mind all the things that will not. Viewing his works, we begin to consider our own positioning—as individuals and as a culture—in a history that will only ever push us further and further into the past, until we exist only as remote traces of time immemorial.

detail, The Berkeley Petroglyph, Berkeley, California

But in this same manner, Sudeith’s petroglyphs also address a set of more specific, and perhaps more pertinent, questions: What will these remote traces be? Where will they be discovered? How will they be read? At the heart of these questions and at the core of Sudeith’s work is an intense exploration into the boundaries of communication—not just how a time can be captured, but how it can be preserved, or in this case, petrified.

– Gates of the West

Pickup Pictograph in Sumatra Hills, Montana