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  • Rainey Knudson

Rocks Are Not Dead (164 words)

Left: Petrified pine cone, Jurassic period, Argentina. Right: Our Lady of Guadalupe (date unknown)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that nothing in the universe is original. Great art is not original. You couldn’t come up with something unrecognizable even if you tried, because we are nature. We are starstuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. It is therefore unsurprising that art always conjures something that already exists in the universe.* 

This last point is fittingly demonstrated in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. All minerals and fossils pictured are in the museum's permanent collection and were photographed there. The final image is a still from a video by the Korean artist Kim Beom, in which he reads poetry to a rock.

We are all of us, everything, in this together.


Left: Cerussite, from the Otjikoto Region of Namibia. Right: Pennzoil Place, downtown Houston, designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, 1975

Left: Elbaite & Quartz, Tourmaline Queen Mine, San Diego County, California. Right: Georges Braque, Still Life with Mandola and Metronome, 1909


Left: Cavansite, Wagholi Quarry, Maharashtra, India. Right: Yves Klein sponge sculptures


Left: Quartz v. Selenite, Rio Grande de Sul, Brazil. Right: Donald Judd, Untitled (detail), 1974



Left: Fossilized coral from the Devonian period, Switzerland. Right: Tony Cragg, In Minds, 2001- 2002


Left: Azurite & Malachite, Otjikoto Region, Namibia. Right: Robert Morris installation view at the Whitney Museum [Photo: Rudy Burckhardt © 2013 Rudy Burckhardt Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]


Left: Petrified Wood, Late Triassic period, Apache County, Arizona. Right: Damien Hirst, Untitled Spin Painting, 2001



Left: Stromatolite, Proterozoic period, Alice Springs, Australia. Right: Jannis Kounellis installation at the Teatro Margherita, 2010



Left: Ammonite, Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous period, Volga River, Russia. Right: Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970


Left: Microcline v. Amazonite & Albite, Ten-Percenter Mine, Colorado. Right: Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1902-04


Left: Smithsonite, Kelly Mine, New Mexico. Right: Ted Kincaid, LA Sky 803, 2009



Left: Pyrite, Navajún, Spain. Right: Tony Smith, Die, 1962



Left: Mesolite, Maharashtra, India. Right: Tara Donovan, Untitled, 2012

Left: Brittle Stars, Jurassic period, Dorset County, England. Right: James Surls, Tree and Three Flowers (detail), 2013

Left: Glyptodon, Pleistocene period. Right: Martin Puryear, Deadeye, 2002


Left: Stilbite, Maharashtra, India. Right: Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958–66

Left: Echinoid, Middle Jurassic period, Gloucestershire, England. Right: Chakaia Booker, Acid Rain (detail), 2001


Left: Rhodochrosite (polished), Capillitas Mine, Argentina. Right: Louise Bourgeois, CINQUE (detail), 2005


Kim Beom, still from A Rock That Learned the Poetry of Jung Jiyong, 2010, single-channel video

 *With thanks to Aristotle, Carl Sagan, Jackson Pollock, Antonio Gaudi, Nikola Tesla, and Jane Austen.

This article was originally published on Glasstire with the title "Looking in the Mirror: Old Rocks / New Art" in April, 2014.


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