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Critical Assembly and Terrestrial Physics

In 1998 Jim Sanborn visited the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was detonated. This visit led him to a six-year project titled Critical Assembly during which he created a tableau based on the laboratory environment for the assembly of the first atomic bomb. This large installation began with concentrated research and then with many trips over a four-year period to Los Alamos NM where he acquired original spare parts and prototypes of the first atomic bomb and the laboratory equipment used to build them. The objects he was not able to acquire from former employees of the lab, he constructed.

Terrestrial Physics Sanborn's project predates that 1944 Los Alamos program by several years and focuses on the following event.

In a quiet residential neighborhood in Washington DC at 9:00 pm Saturday, January 28, 1939, the large particle accelerator at The Carnegie Institutions Department of Terrestrial Magnetism split the nucleus of the uranium atom for a small audience that included the physicists Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr and Edward Teller. This discovery paved the way for technologies as ironically disparate as nuclear medicine and, within just five years, the atomic bomb.

Working from the Carnegie physicist's original notes, drawings, and photographs in the Carnegie Library, Sanborn has reconstructed machines based on this information and repeated the original experiment; splitting the atom of Uranium. The installation, large digital prints, a video of the fission events and the accelerator in operation, form the basis of this body of work.

Terrestrial Physics and Critical Assembly soften the distinctions between art and science. These installations exploring the relationship between pure science and technology do not use science as just a starting point though; here, tools more often associated with science have become an integral part of artwork. These reinterpretations of the events and more importantly the influence of the visual context of these moments remind us of the risks, rewards and complexities of the decision-making processes involved.

Click here to see MCA-Denver YouTube video.

       
  Title: Terrestrial Physics, 2010
Location: MCA Denver, Denver, CO
Materials: Mixed materials, original parts, artifacts and video
Size: 18'x30'x50'
Title: Terrestrial Physics, 2010
Location: MCA Denver, Denver, CO
Materials: Mixed materials, original parts, artifacts and video
Size: 18'x30'x50'
           
  Title: Terrestrial Physics, 2010
Location: MCA Denver, Denver, CO
Materials: Mixed materials, original parts, artifacts and video
Size: 18'x30'x50'
  Title: Terrestrial Physics, 2010
Location: Outside studio
Materials: Mixed materials, original parts and artifacts
Size: 28'x20'x10'
           
  Title: Critical Assembly, laboratory environment for the assembly of the Trinity device, 1998-2004
Location: Gwangju Biennale, South Korea
Materials: Mixed materials, original parts and artifacts
Size: Dimensions variable
  Title: Critical Assembly Detail: Bottom Half of the Trinity Device, 1998-2004
Location: Gwangju Biennale, South Korea
Materials: Mixed materials, original parts and artifacts
Size: Dimensions variable
           
  Title: Critical Assembly Detail: Assembly for Critical Mass, 1998-2004
Location: Gwangju Biennale, South Korea
Materials: Mixed materials, original parts and artifacts
Size: Dimensions variable
  Title: Critical Assembly Detail: Los Alamos Prototype II, 1998-2004
Location: Gwangju Biennale, South Korea
Materials: Mixed materials, original prototypes and artifacts
Size: Dimensions variable
           
  Title: Covert Obsolescence: The Code Room, 1993
Location: Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC
Materials: Copper, text, projected light and petrified tree
Size: 18'x20'x50'
  Title: Covert Obsolescence, The Listening Post, 1993
Location: Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC
Materials: Pulped C.I.A. documents, copper screen, 35mm film projection of lava falls
Size: 18'x20'x30'
           
  Title: Animisme, 1993
Location: High Museum of Art Atlanta, GA
Materials: Shinto rice straw rope and paper, suspended
Size: 15' in diameter
  Title: Covert Obsolescence, The Listening Post, 1993
Location: Studio installation
Materials: Pulped C.I.A. documents, copper screen
Size: 9'x15'x15'
           
  Title: North by Northwest, 1981
Location: Artists Space, New York, NY
Materials: Lodestone, compasses,
sandstone and light
Size: Dimensions variable
  Title: Coriolis, 1985-1992
Location: The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Materials: Sandstone, museum specimens, whirlpool and light
Size: Dimensions variable
           
  Title: Thunderhead Horizon, 1985
Location: Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC
Materials: Sandstone, lodestone, shadow
Size: 12'x24'x4'
  Title: Invisible Forces, 1985
Location: Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
Materials: Lodestone, compasses, sandstone and light
Size: 10'x30'x5'
           
  Title: The Mummy Room, 1980
Location: The Virginia Museum, Richmond, Virginia
Materials: Stone, Egyptian mummy, mummy case
Size: 8'x14'x20'
  Title: All Things Turned to Stone, 1988
Location: LA County Museum of Art
Materials: Petrified tree, broken tree, stone and dowsing rods
Size: 14'x20'x5'
 

HOME Recent Work

Without Provenance, The Making Of Contemporary Antiquity

Jim Sanborn has been building science-based installations for many years. From 2000 through 2010 his works Critical Assembly at the Gwangiu Biennale and the Corcoran Museum and Terrestrial Physics at the Museum Of Contemporary Art Denver used self made and purchased genuine artifacts as set pieces in complex installations, so this new work it is not as large a departure as one might think. The physics related works studied the relationship between pure science and technology. This new body of work draws from his early training as an archeologist and later as an artist following the auction trade.

This “auction” folio contains a selection of images from his Without Provenance installation. The complete installation consists of over twenty works each with its attendant framed “auction” page. The dimensions and configuration of the “antiquities museum/auction preview” installation is variable. The auction folio may be used as a template for an installation catalog.

For several years a crisis has been brewing in public and private antiquities collections, and many collections have ceased to add to their holdings because incidents of murky provenance, repatriations, and questions of authenticity have increased dramatically. The introduction of fakes into the auction market began decades ago, and in the last few years this has become a serious problem for unwitting collectors, dealers and museums.

The works in this installation are not museum shop “replicas” because they are not cheaply mass produced. They are not “forgeries” either because this implies that the pieces are offered for sale as genuine antiquities which they are not. These pieces can however be called “high-end reproductions” or "Contemporary Antiquities".

Jim Sanborn has gone to great lengths to discover the complex and time consuming art of forging stone antiquities in order to present convincing objects for this installation and to provide an alternative to buyers of looted antiquities.

Working with conservation professionals in the US and master forgers in Cambodia Sanborn has uncovered the process for aging newly carved sandstone works that makes the pieces scientifically and aesthetically indistinguishable from genuine antiquities.

The idea for protecting genuine works from looters is simple; discourage the collecting of looted antiquities by injecting a high level of uncertainty into the buying experience, or offer buyers high-end reproductions: Are the desired objects genuine or high-end reproductions?

In order to dilute the criminal trade in looted objects French antiquities conservation groups have already begun the process by bringing out many of these forgeries from Cambodia so they can be sold legally as expensive high-end reproductions, and buyers are there, buyers willing to purchase Khmer artworks for their beauty, not their age.

By disseminating long hidden forgery techniques to a wider audience of artists in Cambodia and Thailand and by having Thai and Cambodian officials promote the export of legal Contemporary Antiquities, the process can move ahead. The only remaining obstacle is that the high-end reproduction market in Cambodia and Thailand is mixed up with the forgery market so that today most high-end pieces are being sold as genuine, thus making the transactions illegal. This is a big problem that is going to take a considerable international effort to overcome.

(Click on images to enlarge)

 

HOME Photo and video

The Radium Clock Series

The first test of an atomic bomb occured in the southern New Mexico desert just before dawn at 5:30 AM on July16, 1945. The intense flash that turned night into day was thought by residents as far away as 100 miles to be sunrise. Ironically, radioactive luminous clocks on night-stands in bedrooms across New Mexico informed the residents that it was not yet sunrise. The clock face images are time-lapse photographs of luminous radium alarm clock dials.

The images in the Radium Clock series are presented as 20" x 24" and 30” x 36” digital prints.

           

Carrizozo NM

  Title: Carrizozo, New Mexico, 2002
Description: Radium clock dial, digital print, 30" x 36"
Las Cruces   Title: Las Cruces, New Mexico, 2002
Description: Radium clock dial, digital print, 30" x 36"
           
Granquivira   Title: Granquivira, New Mexico, 2002
Description: Radium clock dial, digital print, 30" x 36"
Ancho   Title: Ancho, New Mexico, 2002
Description: Radium clock dial, digital print, 30" x 36"
 
The Uranium Autoradiograph Series

Nuclear materials are primarily derived from “natural” uranium. This radioactive ore is currently mined at hundreds of sites worldwide. In the 1940s, when the first atomic bomb was assembled, just a handful of mines supplied the material.

These images were created by placing samples of uranium collected from these early mines onto 4” x 5” sheet film. In time, the ore samples photographed themselves using their own radioactivity to expose the film. These digital prints made from the exposed film are called autoradiographs. They were first used by Marie Curie in the 19th century, at that time, only in black and white.

In 1934, physicist Pavel Cherenkov discovered the “color” of radioactivity. The intense blue of Cherenkov Radiation is seen in the air surrounding powerfully radioactive materials. The cobalt blue in the autoradiographs is this color, formed naturally by the radiation.

The images in the Uranium Autoradiograph Series are presented as 20" x 24" and 30” x 36” digital prints.

           
Joachimsthal, Bavaria   Title: Joachimsthal, Bavaria, 2001-2003
Description: Uranium autoradiograph, digital print, 30" x 36"
Gas Hills   Title: Gas Hills, Wyoming, 2001-2003
Description: Uranium autoradiograph, digital print, 30" x 36"
 
Monticello, Utah   Title: Monticello, Utah, 2001-2003
Description: Uranium autoradiograph, digital print, 30" x 36"
Shinkolobwe   Title: Shinkolobwe, Congo, 2001-2003
Description: Uranium autoradiograph, digital print, 30" x 36"
 
The Penetrating Radiation Series

Since the 1950s, depleted uranium has been used in certain types of artillery shells. Uranium has two properties that make it an attractive weapon: the material is heavier and harder than lead and it is pyrophoric (when it hits an object, it ignites spontaneously and burns violently.) Tens of thousands of uranium projectiles have been fired in international “theaters” of war. The health effects of these weapons are currently creating significant conflict within the international community.

The images in the Penetrating Radiation series are presented as 40" x 36" and 30" x 24" digital prints in sets of two.

 
Penetrating Radiation   Title: Penetrating Radiation 1, 2003
Description: Depleted Uranium projectile (left), Autoradiograph (right), digital prints, 40" x 36" each
Penetrating Radiation   Title: Penetrating Radiation 2, 2003
Description: Depleted Uranium projectile (left), Autoradiograph (right), digital prints, 40" x 36" each
 
Penetrating Radiation   Title: Penetrating Radiation 3, 2003
Description: Depleted Uranium projectile (left), Autoradiograph (right), digital prints, 40" x 36" each
Penetrating Radiation   Title: Penetrating Radiation 4, 2003
Description: Depleted Uranium projectile (left), Autoradiograph (right), digital prints, 40" x 36" each
 

HOME KRYPTOS

For questions about, or for solutions to Kryptos, please click here

The narrative of the Kryptos artwork at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters has been unfolding for almost 20 years. From the top down struggle at the Agency about the highly publicized work to its robust life on the Internet, its involvement with the Da Vinci Code and its powerful effect on individuals and popular culture, the artwork has taken on a fast-paced almost mythic life. Ace code-breakers at the CIA and a rival team at the super-secret NSA have worked for many months on the code without cracking all of the sections. The NSA has released their methods and are available at: https://www.nsa.gov/public_info/declass/cia_kryptos_sculpture.shtml.

In the late 1980’s when the piece was designed codes and coding were esoteric subjects. Code had not really penetrated the popular mindset. The well-publicized arrival of Kryptos (it was front page news on a global scale and was featured on national and international radio and television broadcasts) set the stage for a code revival. The blossoming of personal secrecy and code cracking as recreation have been gaining in popularity ever since. And the fact that an artist, with a little help, developed a challenging code enhanced its unconventional populism. Kryptos had deftly steered itself onto a parallel track with the advent of bank machine pass codes, personal pass codes, Internet secrecy and even national security.

The K4 section of Kryptos is one of the world’s most famous unsolved mysteries. Recently it was the most Googled thing globally for two days running. Kryptos websites, chat rooms, and blogs abound. The artist continues to review dozens of attempts to crack the code on a weekly basis.

Kryptos has been the subject of five National Public Radio stories and a feature piece for NOVA Science Now. It’s been on Good Morning America twice. Part of its coded message is used on the hardcover edition of the Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown and Jim Sanborn and Kryptos have a chapter devoted to them in the Dan Brown book “The Lost Symbol”. There have been countless national and international front-page newspaper stories and numerous magazine features telling the engaging story of Kryptos. In 2010 Kryptos made the front page of the Sunday New York Times and countless other international news outlets when the artist released the “Berlin” Clue on the 20th anniversary of Kryptos. And in November 2014 a similar global press frenzy occurred when the second clue “clock” was released on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 
 
Kryptos related gallery works
 
 

Title: Encoded Cylinder, 1990

Materials: Pulped CIA documents, encoded text

Size: 72"x18"x18"

 

Title: Covert Obsolescence Detail, 1990

Materials: Pulped CIA documents, encoded text

Size: 5"x6"

 
 

Title: Covert Obsolescence 1, 1991

Materials: Pulped CIA documents, encoded English text

Size: 60"x96"x4"

 

Title: Covert Obsolescence 2, 1991

Materials: Pulped CIA documents, encoded Cyrillic text

Size: 60"x96"x4"

 
 

Title: Covert Oblolescence 3, 1991

Materials: Pulped CIA documents, encoded Arabic text

Size: 84"x74"x 4"

 

Title: Covert Oblolescence 4, 1991

Materials: Pulped CIA documents, encoded English text

Size: 18"x 72"x 4"

 
 

Title: Archeotranscription 1, 1992

Materials: Etched copper, KGB documents

Size: 40"x40"x4"

 

Title: Archeotranscription Detail, 1992

Materials: Etched copper, KGB documents

Size: detail

           
 

Title: Archeotranscription 2, 1992

Materials: Etched copper, KGB documents

Size: 23"x24"

 

Title: Archeotranscription 3, 1992

Materials: Etched copper, KGB documents

Size: 23"x24"

           
 

Title: Archeotranscription 4, 1992

Materials: Etched copper, KGB documents

Size: 23"x24"

 

Title: Clandestine Device 1, 1992

Materials: Etched copper, sandstone, KGB documents

Size: 12"x12"x12"

           
 

Title: Clandestine Device 2, 1992

Materials: Etched copper, sandstone, KGB documents

Size: 74"x 24"x24"

 

Title: Clandestine Device 3, 1992

Materials: Etched copper, sandstone, KGB documents

Size: 18"x12"x12"

           
 

Title: Deceit Filter, INGANNO [L. deceit], 1992

Materials: Etched copper, latin text

Size: 12"x 14"x 3"

 

Title: Deceit Filter OBMAH [R. deceit], 1992

Materials: Etched copper, russian text

Size: 12"x14"x3"

           
 

Title: Bias Filter, INCLINARE [L. bias],1992

Materials: Aluminum, etched copper, text, shadow

Size: 72"x18"x18"

 

Title: Bias Filter, INCLINARE [L. bias]Detail, 1992

Materials: Aluminum, etched copper, text, shadow

Size: detail

           
 

Title: Light Filter CBET [R. light], 1992

Materials: aluminum, etched copper, text, shadow

Size: 60"x24'x24"

 

Title: Light Filter CBET [R. light] Detail, 1992

Materials: aluminum, etched copper, text, shadow

Size: detail

           
 

Title: Shadow Filter OMBRE [F. shadow], 1992

Materials: Stainless steel, text, reflection and shadow

Size: 60"x24"x24"

 

Title: Shadow Filter OMBRE [F. shadow] Detail, 1992

Materials: Stainless steel, text, reflection and shadow

Size: detail

 

HOME Public Projects

 
  Title: Radiance, 2008
Location: Department of Energy, Coast, and Environment, Lousianna State University, Baton Rouge, LA
Materials: Bronze, waterjet cut text, pin point light source
Size: Projection cylinders: 8' high x 5' diameter
  Title: Lux, 2001
Location: Old Post Office Building; Fort Myers, Florida
Materials: Bronze, Native American and Latin texts, pin point light source
Size: Projection cylinders: 8' high x 5' diameter
           
  Title: A Comma, A, 2004
Location: Plaza in front of the new library, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Materials: Copper, international language texts, light, black granite paving inlay
Size: 6'x26'x80'
  Title: Kryptos, 1989
Location: Courtyard plaza, Central Intelligence Agency; Langley, Virginia
Materials: Granite, quartz, lodestone, copper, encoded text, water
Size: 12'x20'x10'
           
  Title: A Comma, A, 2004
Location: Plaza in front of the new library, University of Houston
Materials: Copper, text, light, black granite paving inlay
Size: 6'x26'x80'
  Title: Kryptos, 1989
Location: Courtyard lawn, Central Intelligence Agency; Langley, Virginia
Materials: Granite, quartz, lodestone, copper, encoded text, water
Size: 3'x60'x12'
           
  Title: Coastline, 1993
Location: NOAA Museum of the Sea, Silver Spring, Maryland
Materials: Pheumatic wave generator, granite, modem connection for real time wave height
Size: 100'x50'
  Title: Paleos, 1994
Location: MIT Department of Microbiology, Cambridge, MA
Materials: Mixed materials with large format floor projection
Size: Variable dimentions
           
  Title: Rippawam, 1999
Location: University of Connecticut, Stamford, CT
Materials: Rolled copper, Native American texts with English translation
Size: 6'x26'x4'
  Title: Antipodes, 1997
Location: Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
Materials: Copper, encoded text, petrified tree
Size: 11'x6'x3'
 

HOMEBio - Resume

Artist Jim Sanborn was born in Washington, DC on November 14, 1945. He graduated from Randolph-Macon College in 1969 with a double major in art history and sociology. He received his Masters degree in sculpture from Pratt Institute in 1971.

Sanborn has received numerous awards and grants and has exhibited in major museums in the United States, Asia, and Europe. Jim Sanborn's public artworks are located in Japan, Taiwan and many locations in the United States.

Selected Group Exhibitions

2014       Robischan Gallery, Denver
2013       Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Fe
2012       Marsha Mateyka Gallery, “Drawings”
2011       The Nevada Museum, “Photographs Of A Changing Environment”
2010       Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO
2009       The Crawford Gallery, "Terror And The Sublime", Cork City, Ireland
2007       Heckscher Museum of Art, "Mathematics and Contemporary Art",                Huntington, NY
2006       Irvine Contemporary, "Gallery Artists", Washington, DC.
2006       Palm Springs Art Museum, "Contemporary Desert Photography",                Palm Springs, CA
2005       Colgate University Art Gallery, "Bang", Hamilton, NY
2004       The Qwangju Biennale, Republic of Korea.
2002       The Contemporary Museum, "Snapshots" Baltimore, MD
2001       The Scottsdale Museum of Fine Arts, "The Altered Landscape",                Scottsdale, AZ
2000       The Contemporary Arts Center, "Landshapes", Newport News, VA
1999       The Southeast Museum of Photography, "Landshapes," Daytona                Beach, FL
1999       The Nevada Museum of Art, "The Altered Landscape," Reno NV
1997       The Neuberger Museum, "Public Art Biennial," Purchase, NY
1994       The High Museum, "Metaphysical Metaphors", Atlanta,GA
1992       The Phillips Collection, "Dialogue With Nature," Washington, DC
1988       L.A. County Museum of Art, "AVA7," Los Angeles, CA
1988       Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts, AVA7, Richmond,VA
1987       Southeastern Center of Contemporary Art, "Southeast 7," Winston                Salem, NC
1985       Hirshhorn Museum, "Content", Washington, DC
1985       The Corcoran Gallery of Art, "Natural Settings", Washington, DC

 

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2006      Kreeger Museum, Washington, DC
2003      Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC
2003      Numark Gallery, Washington, DC
1999      Numark Gallery, Washington, DC
1996      Grimaldis Gallery, Baltimore, MD
1994      Nancy Drysdale Gallery, Washington, DC
1993      The Orlando Museum of Fine Arts, Orlando, FL
1992      The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
1992      Nancy Drysdale Gallery, Washington, DC
1986      Diane Brown Gallery, NYC
1982      Diane Brown Gallery, NYC
1981      Artists Space, NYC

Awards and Grants

2012       Bader Fund Grant 2012
2006       Kreeger Museum Fellowship
2005       Maryland Arts Council Grant
1997       Sirius Project Residency, Cork Ireland
1994       Virginia Commission on The Arts Grant
1992       Virginia Commission On the Arts Grant
1992       Pollack Krasner Foundation Grant
1991,94  Virginia Museum Fellowship
1990       Art Matters Inc. Grant
1988       Awards In The Visual Arts Grant
1988       Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant
1986,82  National Endowment For The Arts Fellowship

 

 

Selected Public Collections

The Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Kaohsiung Museum Of Fine Arts, Republic of China.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, MD
The Central Intelligence Agency, Langly, VA (GSA)
The National Endowment For The Arts, Washington, DC
Kawasaki International Peace Park, Kawasaki, Japan
Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL
Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, FL
Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA
US Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Progressive Insurance, Cleveland, OH
University Of Houston, Houston, TX
University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
University of California SF, San Francisco, CA
Central Connecticut State University, New Britain CT.
University of Connecticut, Stamford Campus.



University of North Carolina, College of Business, Charlotte, N.C.
U.S. Federal Courthouse, Little Rock, Ar. (GSA).
U.S. Federal Reserve Bank , Washington DC.
The Internal Revenue Service, Martinsburg, W.Va. (GSA).
Cleveland State University, College of Business, Cleveland, Oh.
Cleveland State University, Law School, Cleveland, Oh.
Southern Maryland Federal Courthouse, Greenbelt, Md. (GSA).
The City of Baltimore, Baltimore, Md.
The City of Charleston, Charleston, W.Va.
Arlington County Virginia.
Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Fla.
Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Hanes, Winston Salem, N.C.
Broward County Public Art Program, Coral Springs Library.
Lee County Alliance For The Arts, Old Post Office Building, Ft. Myers Fla.
Washington DC Convention Center, Washington DC.
University Of Houston, Library, Houston Texas.
Rocky Hill Veterans Home, Rocky Hill Conn.
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge LA.
Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia PA.
The Federal Reserve Bank, Washington DC.

       


PRESS

Hidden Information: The Work of Jim Sanborn
Rhizome at the New Museum

MCA-Denver: Energy Effects
YouTube Video

Blake Gopnik on art: Daily Pic
Daily Beast

'Kryptos' Sculptor Drops New Clue In 20-Year Mystery
National Public Radio, All Things Considered

Topographic Projections & Implied Geometries Series
艺术 Art 访谈 Interview



Contact

For questions about, or for solutions to Kryptos, please click here

Contact the Artist: kryptos@earthlink.net


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