Robert Smithson’s Hotel Palenque

Project for Laura Gitlen Gallery, New York City. 
Also exhibited at James Cohan Gallery, New York City.

“Now this shows you the roofless motif which I think is very, very handsome. . . .
This is really the old hotel and you can see that instead of just tearing it down
at once they tear it down partially so that you are not deprived of the wreckage
situation. That’s very satisfying actually to me: it’s not often that you see
buildings being both ripped down and built up at the same time. . . .”
– Robert Smithson

In three acts of ventriloquism, chaos gives way to formalism. An exhibition of new
work by Harrell Fletcher, Corin Hewitt, and Elizabeth McAlpine, Roofless Motifs
includes performance, drawings, photographs and video where the spontaneity of
performance and the entropic forces of nature push the limits of form. At the same
time, the insistence of structuralism and our reliance on language further defines
the parameters of each artist’s work.

In 1972, Robert Smithson delivered a slide lecture to the architecture students at
the University of Utah on Hotel Palenque, a partially demolished construction
project he came across in Mexico. Offhand, and at times droll in its delivery,
Smithson recounted the beauty and intrigue of the waterless pools, rebar jutting
out of demolished concrete walls, and roofless buildings. Unclear if the lecture
mocked academia and its fetishization of these sites or was a genuine recount of
his visit, the notorious lecture has become legendary in Smithson’s life and work.

Harrell Fletcher’s video, Robert Smithson: The Hotel Palenque, covers Smithson’s
original lecture, delivering its content in a drier and more ambiguous tone.
Questioning the distribution of knowledge and its interpretation, Fletcher’s work
resists traditional hierarchies, opening up dialogues between and across political
structures. The bootlegged and casual nature of his work also suggests an
irreverence toward the preciousness of the art world that galvanizes and
instantiates the original.