Land art, variously known as Earth art, environmental art, and Earthworks, is an art movement that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, largely associated with Great Britain and the United States, but which included examples from many countries. As a trend "Land art" expanded boundaries of art by the materials used and the siting of the works. The materials used were often the materials of the Earth including for instance the soil and rocks and vegetation and water found on-site, and the siting of the works were often distant from population centers. Though sometimes fairly inaccessible, photo documentation was commonly brought back to the urban art gallery.
Concerns of the art movement centered around rejection of the commercialization of art-making and enthusiasm with an emergent ecological movement. The art movement coincided with the popularity of the rejection of urban living and its counterpart, an enthusiasm for that which is rural. Included in these inclinations were spiritual yearnings concerning the planet Earth as home to mankind.
In the 1960s and 1970s land art protested "ruthless commercialization" of art in America. During this period, exponents of land art rejected the museum or gallery as the setting of artistic activity and developed monumental landscape projects which were beyond the reach of traditional transportable sculpture and the commercial art market, although photographic documentation was often presented in normal gallery spaces. Land art was inspired by minimal art and conceptual art but also by modern movements such as De Stijl, Cubism, minimalism and the work of Constantin Brâncuși and Joseph Beuys. Many of the artists associated with land art had been involved with minimal art and conceptual art. Isamu Noguchi's 1941 design for Contoured Playground in New York is sometimes interpreted as an important early piece of land art even though the artist himself never called his work "land art" but simply "sculpture". His influence on contemporary land art, landscape architecture and environmental sculpture is evident in many works today.
Alan Sonfist used an alternative approach to working with nature and culture by bringing historical nature and sustainable art back into New York City. His most inspirational work is Time Landscape, an indigenous forest he planted in New York City. He also created several other Time Landscapes around the world such as Circles of Time in Florence Italy documenting the historical usage of the land, and recently at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum outside Boston. According to critic Barbara Rose, writing in Artforum in 1969, he had become disillusioned with the commodification and insularity of gallery bound art. In 1967, the art critic Grace Glueck writing in the New York Times declared the first earthwork was done by Douglas Leichter and Richard Saba at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. The sudden appearance of land art in 1968 can be located as a response by a generation of artists mostly in their late twenties to the heightened political activism of the year and the emerging environmental and women's liberation movements.
One example of land art in the 20th century was a group exhibition created in 1968 at the Dwan Gallery in New York. In February 1969, Willoughby Sharp curated the "Earth Art" exhibition at the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. The artists included were Walter De Maria, Jan Dibbets, Hans Haacke, Michael Heizer, Neil Jenney, Richard Long, David Medalla, Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, and Gunther Uecker. The exhibition was directed by Thomas W. Leavitt. Gordon Matta-Clark, who lived in Ithaca at the time, was invited by Sharp to help the artists in "Earth Art" with the on-site execution of their works for the exhibition.
Perhaps the best known artist who worked in this genre was the American Robert Smithson whose 1968 essay "The Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects" provided a critical framework for the movement as a reaction to the disengagement of Modernism from social issues as represented by the critic Clement Greenberg. His best known piece, and probably the most famous piece of all land art, is the Spiral Jetty (1970), for which Smithson arranged rock, earth and algae so as to form a long (1500 ft) spiral-shape jetty protruding into Great Salt Lake in northern Utah, U.S.. How much of the work, if any, is visible is dependent on the fluctuating water levels. Since its creation, the work has been completely covered, and then uncovered again, by water. A steward of the artwork in conjunction with the Dia Foundation, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts regularly curates programming around the Spiral Jetty, including a "Family Backpacks" program. Smithson's Gravel Mirror with Cracks and Dust (1968) is an example of land art existing in a gallery space rather than in the natural environment. It consists of a pile of gravel by the side of a partially mirrored gallery wall. In its simplicity of form and concentration on the materials themselves, this and other pieces of land art have an affinity with minimalism. There is also a relationship to Arte Povera in the use of materials traditionally considered "unartistic" or "worthless". The Italian Germano Celant, founder of Arte Povera, was one of the first curator to promote Land Art.
'Land Artists' have tended to be American, with other prominent artists in this field including, Carl Andre, Alice Aycock, Walter De Maria, Hans Haacke, Michael Heizer, Nancy Holt, Ana Mendieta, Dennis Oppenheim, Andrew Rogers, Charles Ross, Alan Sonfist, and James Turrell. Turrell began work in 1972 on possibly the largest piece of land art thus far, reshaping the earth surrounding the extinct Roden Crater volcano in Arizona. Perhaps the most prominent non-American land artists are the British Chris Drury, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long and the Australian Andrew Rogers. In 1973 Jacek Tylicki begins to lay out blank canvases or paper sheets in the natural environment for the nature to create art.
Some projects by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude (who are famous for wrapping monuments, buildings and landscapes in fabric) have also been considered land art by some, though the artists themselves consider this incorrect. Joseph Beuys' concept of 'social sculpture' influenced 'Land art' and his '7000 Eichen' project of 1982 to plant 7000 Oak trees has many similarities to 'Land art' processes. Rogers' “Rhythms of Life” project is the largest contemporary land-art undertaking in the world, forming a chain of stone sculptures, or geoglyphs, around the globe – 12 sites – in disparate exotic locations (from below sea level and up to altitudes of 4,300 m/14,107 ft). Up to three geoglyphs (ranging in size up to 40,000 sq m/430,560 sq ft) are located in each site.
Land artists in America relied mostly on wealthy patrons and private foundations to fund their often costly projects. With the sudden economic down turn of the mid-1970s funds from these sources largely stopped. With the death of Robert Smithson in a plane crash in 1973 the movement lost one of its most important figureheads and faded out. Charles Ross continues to work on the Star Axis project, which he began in 1971. Michael Heizer continues his work on City, and James Turrell continues to work on the Roden Crater project. In most respects, "land art" has become part of mainstream public art and in many cases the term "land art" is misused to label any kind of art in nature even though conceptually not related to the avant-garde works by the pioneers of land art.
The Earth art of the 1960s were sometimes reminiscent the much older land works, Stonehenge, the Pyramids, Native American mounds, the Nazca Lines in Peru, Carnac stones and Native American burial grounds, and often evoked the spirituality of such archeological sites.
7000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration (German: 7000 Eichen – Stadtverwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung) is a work of land art by the German artist Joseph Beuys. It was first publicly presented in 1982 at the documenta 7.Andy Goldsworthy
Andy Goldsworthy (born 26 July 1956) is a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist who produces site-specific sculptures and land art situated in natural and urban settings. He lives and works in Scotland.Crop circle
A crop circle or crop formation is a pattern created by flattening a crop, usually a cereal. The term was first coined in the early 1980s by Colin Andrews. Crop circles have been described as all falling "within the range of the sort of thing done in hoaxes" by Taner Edis, professor of physics at Truman State University. Although obscure natural causes or alien origins of crop circles are suggested by fringe theorists, there is no scientific evidence for such explanations, and all crop circles are consistent with human causation.The number of crop circles has substantially increased from the 1970s to current times. There has been little scientific study of them. Circles in the United Kingdom are not distributed randomly across the landscape but appear near roads, areas of medium to dense population and cultural heritage monuments, such as Stonehenge or Avebury. In 1991, two hoaxers, Bower and Chorley, took credit for having created many circles throughout England after one of their circles was described by a circle investigator as impossible to be made by human hand.Formations are usually created overnight, although some are reported to have appeared during the day. In contrast to crop circles or crop formations, archaeological remains can cause cropmarks in the fields in the shapes of circles and squares, but they do not appear overnight, and they are always in the same places every year.Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park
Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park (or Earl W. Brydges State Artpark) is a 108-acre (0.44 km2) state park located in the Village of Lewiston in Niagara County, New York. The park, which is officially named after former New York State Senator Earl Brydges, is generally referred to as Artpark. The park overlooks the Niagara Gorge.Environmental art
Environmental art is a range of artistic practices encompassing both historical approaches to nature in art and more recent ecological and politically motivated types of works. Environmental art has evolved away from formal concerns, worked out with earth as a sculptural material, towards a deeper relationship to systems, processes and phenomena in relationship to social concerns. Integrated social and ecological approaches developed as an ethical, restorative stance emerged in the 1990s. Over the past ten years environmental art has become a focal point of exhibitions around the world as the social and cultural aspects of climate change come to the forefront.
The term "environmental art" often encompasses "ecological" concerns but is not specific to them. It primarily celebrates an artist's connection with nature using natural materials. The concept is best understood in relationship to historic earth/Land art and the evolving field of ecological art. The field is interdisciplinary in the fact that environmental artists embrace ideas from science and philosophy. The practice encompasses traditional media, new media and critical social forms of production. The work embraces a full range of landscape/environmental conditions from the rural, to the suburban and urban as well as urban/rural industrial.Funky Bones
Funky Bones is a public artwork by Atelier Van Lieshout, a Dutch artist collective led by Joep van Lieshout, located in the 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, which is on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. The artwork, primarily made from fiberglass, consists of twenty white and black bone-shaped benches.Garden of Cosmic Speculation
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is a 30 acre (12 hectare) sculpture garden created by landscape architect and theorist Charles Jencks at his home, Portrack House, in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Like much of Jencks' work, the garden is inspired by modern cosmology.Geoglyph
A geoglyph is a large design or motif (generally longer than 4 metres) produced on the ground and typically formed by clastic rocks or similarly durable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, live trees, gravel, or earth. A positive geoglyph is formed by the arrangement and alignment of materials on the ground in a manner akin to petroforms, while a negative geoglyph is formed by removing patinated clasts to expose unpatinated ground in a manner akin to petroglyphs.
A variation of the geoglyph, in the form of three-dimensional positive geoglyph, formed by seeding vegetation in a predetermined shape that typically only becomes visible years after the initial planting or seeding, has been named an arborglyph.Installation art
Installation art is an artistic genre of three-dimensional works that often are site-specific and designed to transform the perception of a space. Generally, the term is applied to interior spaces, whereas exterior interventions are often called public art, land art or intervention art; however, the boundaries between these terms overlap.Jan Dibbets
Jan Dibbets (born 9 May 1941, in Weert) is an Amsterdam-based Dutch conceptual artist. His work is influenced by mathematics and works mainly with photography.In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he started as an art teacher at the Tilburg Academy and studied painting with Jan Gregoor in Eindhoven. He had his first solo exhibition in 1965 at Amsterdam's Galerie 845 and subsequently abandoned painting in 1967. At that same period, he visited London and met Richard Long and other artists working with land art. He returned to Amsterdam, incorporated land-art based theories into his work and began to use photography as a "dialogue between nature and cool geometrical design by rotating the camera on its axis" with his "perspective corrections". His work in the Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1972 gave him an international reputation.
In 1994, he was commissioned by the Arago Association to create a memorial to the French astronomer François Arago, known as Hommage à Arago. Dibbets set 135 bronze medallions into the ground along the Paris Meridian between the north and south limits of Paris.
Dibbets works are included in museums around the world, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art in Tilburg, and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.Merichleri
Merichleri — (Bulgarian: Меричлери) — is a small town located in the Dimitrovgrad Municipality of Haskovo Province, within South-central Bulgaria. It is located near the Maritsa River, at 150 metres (490 ft) in altitude. The population of the town was 2,011 residents, in 2006.Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines are a group of very large geoglyphs formed by depressions or shallow incisions made in the soil of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. They were created between 500 BC and 500 AD.Most lines run straight across the landscape, but there are also figurative designs of animals and plants, made up of lines. The individual figurative geoglyph designs measure between 0.4 and 1.1 km (.2 and .7 mi) across. The combined length of all the lines is over 1,300 km (808 mi), and the group cover an area of about 50 sq km (19 sq mi). The lines are typically 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) deep. They were made by removing the top layer of reddish-brown iron oxide-coated pebbles to reveal a yellow-grey subsoil. The width of the lines varies considerably, but over half are slightly over one-third meter (just over 1 foot) wide. In some places they may be only a foot (30.5 cm) wide, and in others reach 6 feet (1.8 m) wide.Some of the Nazca lines form shapes that are best seen from the air (~1,500 ft, 457 m), though they are visible from the surrounding foothills and other high places. The shapes are usually made from one continuous line. The largest ones are about 370 m (1,200 ft) long. Because of its isolation and the dry, windless, stable climate of the plateau, the lines have mostly been preserved naturally. Extremely rare changes in weather may temporarily alter the general designs. As of 2012, the lines are said to have been deteriorating because of an influx of squatters inhabiting the lands.The figures vary in complexity. Hundreds are simple lines and geometric shapes; more than 70 are zoomorphic designs of animals such as a hummingbird, spider, fish, llama, jaguar, monkey, lizard, dog and a human. Other shapes include trees and flowers. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but in general, they ascribe religious significance to them. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.Robert Smithson
Robert Smithson (January 2, 1938 – July 20, 1973) was an American artist who used photography in relation to sculpture and land art.Roden Crater
Roden Crater is a cinder cone type of volcanic cone from an extinct volcano, with a remaining interior volcanic crater. It is located northeast of the city of Flagstaff in northern Arizona, United States.Russian geoglyph
The Russian geoglyph refers to a geoglyph on slopes of the Zyuratkul Mountains in the Chelyabinsk region in Russia.Sculpture garden
A sculpture garden or sculpture park is an outdoor garden dedicated to the presentation of sculpture, usually several permanently sited works in durable materials in landscaped surroundings. These installations are related to several similar concepts, most notably land art, where landscapes become the basis of a site-specific sculpture, and topiary gardens, which consists of training live plants into living sculptures.
A sculpture garden may be private, owned by a museum and accessible freely or for a fee, or public and accessible to all. Some cities own large numbers of public sculptures, some of which they may present together in city parks.
Exhibits range from individual, traditional sculptures to large site-specific installations. Sculpture gardens may also vary greatly in size and scope, either featuring the collected works of multiple artists, or the artwork of a single individual.Site-specific art
Site-specific art is artwork created to exist in a certain place. Typically, the artist takes the location into account while planning and creating the artwork. Site-specific art is produced both by commercial artists, and independently, and can include some instances of work such as sculpture, stencil graffiti, rock balancing, and other art forms. Installations can be in urban areas, remote natural settings, or underwater.Vintondale, Pennsylvania
Vintondale is a borough in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is part of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 414 as of the 2010 census.Walter De Maria
Walter Joseph De Maria (October 1, 1935 – July 25, 2013) was an American artist, sculptor, illustrator and composer, who lived and worked in New York City. Walter de Maria's artistic practice is connected with Minimal art, Conceptual art, and Land art of the 1960s.
LACMA director Michael Govan said that "I think he's one of the greatest artists of our time." Govan, who worked with De Maria for a number of years, found De Maria's work "singular, sublime and direct."