El Mirage, 1975-78
Grey Crawford’s El Mirage photographic series from 1976–79 represents his very unique experimental play through the use of minimalistic special constructions on a dry lake bed in the southern Mojave Desert. These glass and steel plate configurations feel more like performance-enhanced sketches that combine the vastness of the chosen site with a hazy horizon that seemingly has no end. Crawford, who had done his BFA studies in photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and postgraduate degree at the Claremont Graduate School, was a fine blend of East Coast technical prowess and West Coast playfulness. Inspired by the art works of Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson, and Hamish Fulton, Crawford embarked on his own interpretation, mixing various conceptual disciplines to find the flavor he could call his own. The Southern California landscape became the palette for him to draw from—he used his local knowledge of the area as the backdrop for his sculptures. His configurations were created from a contrast of materials—glass, steel, and aluminum sheets—combined together to pull upon their sheer weight and balance to expose their natural vulnerabilities. His quest was to build new architectural realities and he used his camera to capture these time-sequenced moments. His performances of throwing glass and steel plates into a specified area were meant to manifest his own plane of action, where hard meets sharp, breaking the silence on an infinite desert background.