In the previous article we find out the basic concept
of Land Art. The next logical step would be to get to know a bit closer some of
the major names and works of this curious movement.
Our first hero is British land artists Richard Long.
As many of his colleagues, Long worked primarily with organic materials such as
rocks and wood. He gathered his materials and made decisions based on the
environment he would do his work in. It is highly site-specific. The
documenting process is very important to land art, as well as to Long’s oeuvre.
Due to the ephemeral nature of his works, photographs and video are sometimes
the only way to witness his art. For instance, in 1967 work A Line Made By Walking, he would walk back
and forth following a straight line. The path that was left behind symbolized
the empirical origins of nature, the transparency of human trace in the world.
The work was vanished few days later, so the metaphor was embodied quite beautifully.
Holt is one of the key figures in American Postmodern
Era, along with her deceased husband Robert Smithson. Working mainly with
large-scale structures, installations and public sculptures, she contributed a
lot into the formation of land art as an art movement and was interested in the
topics of time, space, and human perception of these issues. If you think that
it is impossible to use sunlight as a material for creating art, you have
clearly never seen Holt’s Sun Tunnels. Located
in the desert in Utah, they provide shelter and an amazing view. Numerous holes
made in the top part of these tunnels create a mesmerizing impression of a sun
sky, sometimes creating a special light game inside the giant tubes. She also
arranged the tunnels in such manner, so during the summer and winter solstices
sunsets and sunrises will be seen through the structures from a specific angle.
Holt was interested in Astrology and her work reminds us Stonehenge, with its mysticism
and unity with nature.
Smithson is a legend of American land art. In 1968, he
published the essay “A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects”
which stated many essential points of land art and introduced some of the new
land artists. In 1970 Smithson created Spiral Jetty nearby Great Salt Lake,
Utah. 6000 tons of stones, salt, basalt, and algae were used to construct this art work. Spiral Jetty embraced all main
principles of land art: protest against commercializing of art world, site-specificity,
changeability of their works, incorporating with the surroundings, anti- institutional views. With a course of time, Spiral Jetty has been flooded and transformed
its appearance affected by the forces of nature. Smithson and his wife, Nancy
Holt, had captured the construction process on camera, incorporating the
footage of dinosaurs in the museum and ripped pages from the history book. At
some point, Smithson said: “the
earth’s history seems at times like a story recorded in a book, each page of
which is torn into small pieces. Many of the pages and some of the pieces of
each page are missing”. The storytelling and discussion in this film raised the
question of an art work’s perception through the historical context; and by the
means of land art, Smithson tries to free his creation from this inaccurate
historical institutionalized view.
Overall, land artists resemble philosophical rebels
that stood against the commodity of art, and were trying to free it from the strict
museum environment. Their main tools were nature and Earth itself; they thought
big and acted conceptual. Keeping in mind modern preoccupation with the
technologies and virtual world, this fascinating art movement may be much
more important than it seems.