Desert(ing) Reality: A Survey of Recent Work By Jon Geiger

Owen Marc Laurion


The intensity of light renders the landscape into infinite projections of time and space. Depth, contour, and line are washed out in the desert sun. The purity of physical form is all consuming as the canyon rises and falls across the landscape.  The view is noted on a map to be best after the winter rains. Even then, only sparse yellow flowers emerge from the red, beige, and grey earth. Looking North the canyon leaves the parking lot and collapses into a thousand lines, contours, and planes.

But this place does not exist. There are no GPS coordinates for this fissure; no point on a map to drive to. The view from this roadside point-of-interest is a spatial fabrication. This is the simulacra of the West at work - permeating the conception of an American ethnoscape and rendering morality from the sandstone bluffs.

Jon Geiger’s recent work frames the conception of American values and landscape according to whimsical material and formal associations. Playful interactions between magazine photographs and ceramic sculptures give way to the problematic relationship between perception and conception - between reality and imagination. Arrangements such as Mountain and Mountain, Coliseum and Archway, or Ball Under Mountain suggest an interest in exterminating meaning through direct bricolage and framing. The spires of sandstone, marbled ceramic, and pictures of landscape collapse into the same visual field. By revealing the negation, lack, and reversibility of the landscape - the rendered landscape - Geiger poses a variety of questions aimed at the commodification of Nature, Culture, and Experience.

A canyon represents geologic phenomenon such as volcanic flows; eroding soils; rock and minerality. The myth of the American West frames the void as presence turning negation into commodity power and a moral prerogative.  What happens when meaning is proscribed to the most meaningless of material, matter and substance? Is a rupture possible? Can cultural-canyons be cut across the social domain?

Geiger’s work plays with an aesthetic relation between perception and representation which, framed against society and the landscape, suggests a precarious human ecology. If the landscape itself has been commodified then we are engulfed within the folds of someone else’s delusion or ideology.  Perhaps, if we looked to the side of a cliff we would read “this too is open for interpretation.” Or, a layer of hermit shale would be recognized beneath coconino sandstone.


“The desert is no longer a landscape, it is a pure form produced

 by the abstraction of all others”   Baudrillard