BLOG #6: Virtual Exhibit on “Land Art”

I’ve always liked dirt and rock– moving it, making shapes with it, and working it with heavy equipment. So it makes sense, at least to me, that I find the post-modern art style known as “land art” to be fascinating.

Land art is a form of environmental art that makes specific landforms intrinsic to the artwork. Often, though not always, these landforms are artificial. The movement’s inception during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s saw the creation of gigantic works with huge amounts of material, as well as significant environmental impacts.

Since that time, land art has become slightly less ambitious, but remains striking, as in the pictures below.It’s important to understand, however, that some of the seminal works of land art existed before 1970, such as the Spiral Jetty by Robert Simpson, and are of a magnificent scale on the order of many acres. It was the expense involved in creating such large projects that eventually caused artists in this style to limit themselves to rock structures of a more modest size.

First, here are a few examples by Andrew Rogers, an Ameran artist who began by creating sculptures in bronze before moving to larger works in landscapes. In 1998, he began perhaps his most ambitious project, an international sculpting event that involved completing large structures, or geoglyphs, in rock in thirteen countries around the globe. Here is the one he created in Turkey, entitled Rhythms of Life.

The below work, the Bunjil Geoglyph, is in the same series. but it is located in Australia.

Both of these are similar concepts, but what I like is how Rogers managed to tailor each to the surrounding landscape, and the precision he used in creating the shapes. It’s as if they could have existed forever, such is the care he took in giving them a natural appearance.

Below is yet another, the Chili Geoglyph, named for its home country. Notice how in this one, the shapes are thicker and taller, requiring far more rocks and care in construction. This sculpture appears to me to resemble an alpaca, which makes sense considering the country to which this land belongs.

Another artist who employs the land art style is British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. Here is his Stone River, created in 2001 near Standford, California.

In a similar vein is the sculpture Wall, done in 1998 in the sculpture park near New York City.

Both of these walls are constructed in drystone, with every stone carefully fitted together with old-time craftsmanship. Their beauty lies not only in the cleanliness of the rock patterns and sinuosity of the shape, but in the way that they interact with their environment. This is a key feature of land art, for while the work of art may be a standalone structure, it is intended to unlock an entire world of meaning drawn from the land and environment around it.

Finally, we come to a very unique work by Goldsworthy. An exhibit done in 2005 at the Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, California, this one is called Drawn Stone.

The intent of the long rectangular structure intersected by a random crack is intended to evoke the consequences of the earthquakes common to California. Goldsworthy masterfully aligns the cracked block with the cracked floor, making all cracks and joints by hand one piece at a time. It’s quite amazing, if you stop to think about it.

While these are only a few examples of recent art in the style, I find them quite representative of a lot of artists today. The urge to alter the earth in such a way as to both discover and create beauty in a scene attracts many to attempt this style. Of course, like any other, it is difficult to work in, and occasionally exists only in a photograh taken of the completed work directly after that completion. However, all that being said, I think this style of artistic expression is, well, fantastic.

Goldsworthy, A. and Thompson, J. (2000). Wall. H.N. Abrams.


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