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Measure of Time

Dennis Oppenheim

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Dennis Oppenheim: Annual Rings, U.S.A./Canada boundary at Fort Kent, Maine and Clair, New Brunswick. Schemata of annual rings severed by political boundary, Time: U.S.A.; 1:30 PM, Time: Canada 2:30 PM, 1968–69; 1 of 5 photographic panels; 60 x 40 in.; gift of Steven and Nancy Oliver. Photo courtesy of the artist.

In the late 1960s Dennis Oppenheim began making earthworks involving sites in the environment, man-made or natural. Annual Rings was an action that he carried out in Maine on the U.S.–Canadian border. On the snow-covered ice of the boundary waterway, Oppenheim used a snow shovel to etch huge concentric rings suggesting the pattern of growth rings in a tree. Cutting back and forth across the boundary line, his massive artistic marks on the land (certainly mocking the Abstract Expressionist–era dominance of the artist’s gesture) not only breached political borders, but also traversed time zones. Oppenheim’s punning action, shortly to dematerialize into the nature systems of weather and change, is preserved in time through documentary photographs. Several are now on view in Measure of Time, an exhibition in Galleries 5 and 6 examining aspects of temporality and duration in American art and film of the last century.

Lucinda Barnes
Associate Director for Art, Film, and Programs

Measure of Time is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Additional support has been provided by the Museum Loan Network, a national collections-sharing initiative funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by MIT's Office of the Arts, and by Joachim and Nancy Bechtle.