Aesthetica collates 10 visually striking examples of Land Art. Earthworks – pieces made in the landscape – were part of the wider conceptual art movement in the 1960s and 1970s. They continue to influence artists today, who are responding to our changing climate and experimenting with human perception.
Robert Smithson’s (1938-1973) iconic spiral is located on the north-eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, Utah. The coil is made from over 6,000 tons of black basalt rocks and earth – stretching to 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide. The sculpture’s construction is documented in a film of the same name.
Sun Tunnels comprises four concrete cylinders in Utah’s Great Basin Desert. Created by pioneering artist Nancy Holt (1938-2014), the piece is arranged in an open cross formation – framing the sun during the summer and winter solstices. Striking sunrises and sunsets can be witnessed through the circular forms.
Richard Long (b. 1945) is best known for documenting his walks with photographs, texts and maps. A Line Made by Walking was a pioneering work in 1967. The artist continues to use circles and spirals as motifs – marking human presence in the landscape with stone, slate or sticks.
The Painted Desert region of Northern Arizona is the backdrop for Roden Crater. The unprecedented space is created by light artist James Turrell (b. 1943), known for works exploring human perception. Upon completion, it will offer audiences a unique, contemplative environment for viewing vast skies.
In the late 1960s, Judy Chicago (b. 1939) turned to pyrotechnics. It was a time when the southern Californian art scene was almost entirely male dominated. The resulting works transformed the landscape – filling it with colourful smoke whilst offering a new, feminist perspective on Land Art.
Stellar Axis is an ephemeral work by Lita Albuquerque (b. 1946). 99 blue spheres stand out against Antarctica’s icy landscape. The placement of each form corresponded to the location of a star in the skies above – creating a constellation on earth. It was the continent’s first and largest ephemeral art work.
Ana Mendieta’s (1948-1985) work revolved around the body, nature and the spiritual connections between them. The artist was exiled from Cuba in 1961 – an event that deeply impacted her work. In Silueta, her body is carved and shaped into the earth, drawing on a range of elemental materials.
400 polished stainless steel poles stand in the high desert of western Mexico. They are spaced 220 feet apart in a large grid – beckoning storms and lightning from above. The immersive piece is intended to be experienced over a long period of time, in any weather condition.
Two interlocking spirals extend outward into the eastern Sahara. D.A.ST. Arteam displaced a large volume of sand to create repeated conical volumes – expanding from a central vessel filled with water. Since March 1997, the project has been disintegrating slowly, exploring the passage of time.
Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s (b. 1964) Seven Magic Mountains is a site-specific work approximately 10 miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada. Seven towers of colourful, stacked boulders rise from the landscape – “punctuating the Mojave with a poetic burst of form and colour.”
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Lead image: Aerial photo showing Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty on the northern banks of the Great Salt Lake, and the Rozel Point landscape to which it is attached, Aug. 26, 2009. Ray Boren, Deseret News archives.
1. Sunrise with Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973-76), Utah, America. Courtney Coombs, 2018.
2. Richard Long RA, A Circle in Antarctica, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.
3. James Turrell, Roden Crater, 1977-2013, Arizona
4. Judy Chicago, Purple Atmosphere, 1969. Fireworks performance. Performed at Santa Barbara Beach, Santa Barbara, CA © Judy Chicago/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy of Through the Flower Archives Courtesy of the artist; Salon 94, New York; and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco.
5. Lita Albuquerque, Stellar Axis: Antarctica, 2006. Image: Jean de Pomereu.
6. Ana Mendieta, Creek, 1974. Super 8 film, colour, silent. Photo: The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC., Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.
7. Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field, 1977. © Estate of Walter De Maria. Photo: John Cliett
8. Desert Breath by D.A.ST. Arteam, Egypt, 1997.
9. Ugo Rondinone, Seven Magic Mountains. Exhibition view, Public Art Production Fund and Nevada Museum of Art, Nevada Desert, Las Vegas 2016