“Noon-day sunshine cinema-ized the site, turning the bridge and the river into an over-exposed picture. Photographing it…was like photographing a photograph.”
-Robert Smithson, “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey.”
Texaco Laundromonument, West Wendover, Nevada
14 x 30 x 40’ (approx.)
9/9/13, 5:09 pm
“TOP LOA” is emblazoned vertically in dimensional wood crimson letters on one of two yellow-beige rectangular pillars in a room filled with machinery, human figures, liquids, and fabric. This same type spells out other enigmatic messages spread throughout this interior space—“THANK YO, ”TOP LO D,” and “2 35 L B B.” West Wendover’s Texaco Laundromonument, like these messages, is at once cryptic and familiar, a zone of repetition and routine that nevertheless embodies a character all its own.
The Laundromonument’s cubic interior space is divided into three distinct sections, defined and reinforced by the two aforementioned pillars and enclosing walls, two freestanding rows of high-capacity washers and dryers, and three evenly spaced groupings of rectangular fluorescent light fixtures, whose bulbs’ inconsistent hues reveal their various vintages. The floor, like the room itself, is spatially regimented by a grid of beige tiles. These are punctuated at irregular intervals by drains, which like the doors of the washers, function as safeguards against flooding, tools for cleaning, membranes between the terrestrial and the aquatic worlds of the Laundromonument. Walls, pillars, ceiling, and floor, all hover in the same imitation vanilla tone, vibrating harshly against the red of the tables and the wooden lettering dotting the wall surfaces.
Rows and columns of mighty “SpeedQueen Drying Tumblers” and “Commercial washers” line two sidewalls and stand back to back in two rows in the center of the room. Nearly all of the machines are engaged, engorged with quarters and clothing, spinning at mechanically equal speeds. Despite their kinetic likeness, their contents differ, igniting a tension between seriality and divergence. Their tone, a grinding low bass note, causes the floor to tremble gently underfoot.
The front and back walls are each punctured by large, glass windows on either side of swinging glass doors, which look out in the front on the gas station beyond, and in the back toward the highway. Above the front door, the Laundromonument’s scarlet letters spell “THANK YO,” and over the back, they read “WELCOME,” facing off in an eternal dialogue of polite exchange. “WELCOME” is bestowed, then, upon those who exit, not to the Laundromat itself, but to the rest of their fresh-smelling lives.