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Exhibition, symposium explore Mojave Desert urbanization

March 31, 2008

The landscape of the Mojave Desert in southwest Nevada has been celebrated for its beauty by artists, mined for its resources by industrialists and deployed by the military as a weapons test site. These days, it is being paved, plumbed, wired and landscaped by production home builders and resort developers as the urban edge of Las Vegas moves ever outward.

The urbanization of the Mojave outside Las Vegas is the theme of “Sites of Transition,” an exhibition of 60 photographs by Ralph Stern, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and Nicole Huber, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Washington–Seattle.

The exhibition, sponsored by ASU’s Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory (PURL), will be on view through April 5 at the College of Design Gallery in Tempe.

Stern and Huber’s photographs accomplish an extraordinary feat, as they reveal the everyday, little-known world of one of the most famous – and most photographed – cities on the planet.

“In a generation, Las Vegas has transformed itself from a desert resort to an urban center,” says Stern. “Our photographs document a world beyond the casinos – a world of infrastructure and power grids, of trailer parks and planned communities, that is hard to reconcile with the famous spectacle of the Strip.”

While focusing on the Mojave Desert and Las Vegas, “Sites of Transition” holds up a not-so-distant mirror to Phoenix and the urbanization of the Sonoran Desert. In doing so, it prompts difficult questions about the market-driven transformations of fragile landscapes that many argue cannot sustain much development.

These questions will be explored in a symposium that PURL is sponsoring – in partnership with F.A.R. (Future Arts Research) @ ASU, the ASU School of Art and the ASU Art Museum – from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 5, at the ASU Art Museum. In addition to Stern and Huber, speakers include Matthew Coolidge, director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Land Use Interpretation; art writer Lucy Lippard, whose recent books include “The Lure of the Local”; and photographer Mark Klett, ASU Regents’ Professor, whose projects include “Third View: A Rephotographic Survey of the American West.”

The symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Web site or call PURL at (480) 727-9880.

Nancy Levinson,
(480) 727-9890