May 3, 2011
The native son Buddy Holly aside, this small city on the tableland of the southern Great Plains has never had a lot to recommend it, culturally or aesthetically. When Coronado passed through the area in the 16th century, he described an acute sense of European disorientation as his men struggled to plot a course across a place “with no more landmarks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea.”
These days a few landmarks rise above the flatness — water towers, radio antennae, lonely-looking trees. Mostly, though, there is still “a lot of land but nowhere to go,” as the artist Donald Judd observed of West Texas. So there may be few better bases of operation for an unusual academic program that has taken root here under the guidance of a Harvard-trained architecture professor at Texas Tech University, in which scholars study and make art in places about as far away from museums and galleries — and from bathrooms, decent beds and air-conditioning — as is possible within the continental United States.