“I’ve been watching David Taylor’s border project for years, with deep admiration. There are a lot of borders out there, including a few unnecessary ones that over the decades have divided photography up into documentary, landscape, portrait, still life and so forth. Part of the brilliance of his survey of the U.S.–Mexico border is that it reveals the strange cruel reach of this idea—for the border is most of all an idea—through all these: landscape, portrait, serial imagery, interiors of detention cells and kilo vehicles, close-ups—all the angles and pieces it takes to understand this tragic tangle of need, geography and ideology.” —Rebecca Solnit
In 2008, David Taylor received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his ongoing examination of the U.S.–Mexico border. His investigation is organized around the documentation of a series of 276 obelisks that mark the international boundary as it extends from El Paso/Juarez to San Diego/ Tijuana. These monuments—striking objects situated in impossibly gorgeous and difficult terrain—were installed between the years 1892 and 1895.
In the process of his work, Taylor earned remarkable access to U.S. Border Patrol facilities, agents and routine operations. Patrol agents often refer to their job in the field as “line work” which is an apt description of Taylor’s own time as he documented the obelisks. Being on the “line” has given Taylor a unique view into overlapping issues of border security, human and drug smuggling, the continuing construction of the border fence and its impact on the land.
This book captures the complexity of the terrain, the politics, and the human dynamics involved. While the images are documentary in nature, they are so formally and visually compelling that the work ultimately transcends genre.
About the Artist
David Taylor earned an MFA from the University of Oregon and a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. His photographs, multimedia installations, and artist’s books have been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions at the The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut; 516 Arts, Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso; El Paso Museum of Art; SF Camerawork, San Francisco; Society for Contemporary Photography, Kansas City, MO; and Northlight Gallery at Arizona State University, Tempe. His work is in a number of permanent collections, including Columbia College Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Washington State Arts Commission, Olympia; University of Washington, Seattle; El Paso Museum of Art; Fidelity Investments, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum. Taylor has completed recent major commissions for artwork that is installed in the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Van Horn, Texas and the United States Federal Courthouse in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Taylor’s ongoing examination of the U.S. Mexico border was supported by a 2008 Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
About the Writers
Luis Alberto Urrea is the critically acclaimed author of eleven books including Across the Wire, By the Lake of Sleeping Children, and Devil’s Highway, all of which document life along the Mexican-American border. He is currently professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois/Chicago.
Hannah Frieser is the director of Light Work, an artist-run, non-profit organization in Syracuse, NY, that has supported artists working in photography and related media since 1973. She has curated numerous exhibitions and her essays and articles appear regularly in photography publications such as Contact Sheet and Nueva Luz.