eearth art and earthworks - Earth art (also called "land art") refers to a movement of artists with wide ranging goals, but all created in nature, employing such materials as stones, dirt, and leaves. "Earthworks" is the same movement. Most works are sculptural. Earthworks often refer to phenomena such as the slow process of erosion or to the movement of planets or stars, especially the sun. Many earthworks are intended to help us to better understand nature. Some demonstrate the inherent differences between nature and civilization, often pointing out artists' desires to understand, conquer, and control natural processes.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s art began to move outdoors from galleries. Some earthworks have been small enough to be gallery pieces, but many involve huge land masses, as did Michael Heizer's Nine Nevada Depressions, 1968: big, curved and zigzagging trenches, like abstract doodles on the earth, placed intermittently over a span of 520 miles. Another example is the 1970 piece by Robert Smithson (American, 1938-1973) titled Spiral Jetty, which extended 1500 feet into the Great Salt Lake, though today it can be witnessed only through documentation.


Images of earthworks:


see thumbnail to leftThere is a long history to the formation of mounds of earth. Some have served burial and other functions, while others have been made for entirely aesthetic reasons. An example of the latter type is the Mud Man sculpture in The Lost Gardens of Heligan of Cornwall, England. Its soil supports various plants, carved stone [or are they cement?] ears, and glazed ceramic eyes. Another photo, taken earlier. See implied.



Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986), 7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks), 1982-1996, gingko, linden, bradford pear, sycamore, and oak trees, each paired with a column of basalt stone.




see thumbnail to rightWalter De Maria (American, 1935-), The New York Earth Room, 1977, an interior earth sculpture: 250 cubic yards of earth (197 cubic meters), 3,600 square feet of floor space (335 square meters), 22 inch depth of material (56 centimeters), total weight of sculpture: 280,000 lbs. (127,300 kilos), Dia Center for the Arts, 141 Wooster Street, New York City. The New York Earth Room is the third Earth Room sculpture executed by the artist, the first being in Munich, Germany in 1968. The second was installed at the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt, Germany in 1974. The first two works no longer exist. Also see environment art.




see thumbnail to leftWalter De Maria, The Lightning Field, 1977. Isolated in and interacting with the high desert of southwestern New Mexico, the sculpture consists of 400 stainless steel poles situated in a rectangular grid array one mile by one kilometer. A full experience of The Lightning Field depends upon the opportunity to view it alone or with a small group of people over an extended period of time. Dia Center for the Arts, which commissioned and maintains The Lightning Field, schedules overnight visits in advance, limiting groups to six or fewer persons. Also see environment art.




see thumbnail to rightDennis Oppenheim (American, 1938-), Salt Flat, 1968, photograph, map and typewritten text on cardboard, 28 x 22 inches (71.1 x 55.9 cm), Tate Gallery, London. This work is the documentation of an earth art activity that Oppenheim carried out in New York on 28 November 1968 when he spread 1000 pounds of finely granulated baker's salt on a vacant asphalt parking lot in a rectangle 50 x 100 feet. It comprises a map of Manhattan on which the site is marked with a cross and a circle, a color photograph of the salt in position, with the artist standing beside it, and an explanatory text. The text reads:

Location: (part 1) 6th Avenue and 25th Street New York City
1000 pounds of bakers salt 50 x 100 feet on asphalt surface. Identical dimensions are to be transferred in 1 x 1 x 2 feet salt lick blocks to ocean floor off Bahama coast xx and dug to a depth of 1 foot - Salt Lake Desert, Utah.







see thumbnail to rightsee thumbnail belowRobert Smithson (American, 1938-1973), Spiral Jetty, 1970, black basalt rocks, earth and salt crystals, coil: 1,500 x 15 feet, stretching out counterclockwise into the translucent red water of Great Salt Lake, UT. As yet this has not been done. Spiral Jetty was acquired by Dia Center for the Arts as a gift from the artist's estate in 1999. Robert Smithson's estate maintains a page about this and other works. See volute.






Robert Smithson, Broken Circle, Emmen, Holland, 1971, green water, white and yellow sand flats, diameter 140 feet, width of canal approximately 12 feet, depth of quarry lake 10 to 15 feet.



Robert Smithson, Spiral Hill, Emmen, Holland, 1971, earth, black, topsoil, white sand, c. 75 feet at base.




James Turrell (American, contemporary), Roden Crater, 1972-2000, a natural cinder volcano situated on the southwestern edge of the Painted Desert in northern Arizona. James Turrell is transforming the crater into a large-scale artwork that relates, through the medium of light, to the universe of the surrounding sky, land, and culture.




see thumbnail to leftRichard Long (English, 1945-), A Line Made by Walking, 1967, photograph and pencil on board, image: 37.5 x 32.4 cm, Tate Gallery, London. Long created this earth work by walking back and forth along the same line in a grassy field in Somerset, England, wearing away a thin path, which lasted until the grass grew back again. Long took this photo of his work in order to document it.




see thumbnail to rightRichard Long, Turf Sculpture, 1967, photograph on paper, image: 22.9 x 22.9 cm, Tate Gallery, London.




see thumbnail to leftAndy Goldsworthy (English, 1956-), Cairn, 1997, Herring Island, Australia. See more earth and environmental art on Herring Island.



see thumbnail to rightAndy Goldsworthy, Storm King Wall, 1997-1998, a site-specific sculpture in field stone, 5 x 2,278 feet overall, Storm King Art Center, NY.




see thumbnail to leftAndy Goldsworthy, one of Two Oak Stacks, 2003, two large balls of stacked and knitted oak sticks, Storm King Art Center, NY. This ball of sticks is directly outside the museum building, visible through the window of the gallery where the other identical ball of sticks was constructed and exhibited. See ephemera, sphere, and wood.


see thumbnail to rightAndy Goldsworthy, Stone Houses, 2004, two monumental domes constructed of wood (split rails from New England agricultural sources) and stone (from Scotland), each 18 feet in height and 24 feet in diameter, Metropolitan Museum, NY. This installation is in the museum's Roof Garden, an outdoor space for sculpture with a great view of the city. The museum says the work was "inspired by Central Park and its architectural backdrop. Inherent in these seemingly simple forms are the implicit power, beauty, mystery, and elemental aspects of nature, marked by the passage of time and by human contact." See sculpture garden.




Wim Delvoye, four pieces:

photographs altered so that texts appear to have been carved into living rock, published in the printed and web-based art periodical TRANS>, Vol.1/2, No.3/4, 1997.



Earth art's emergence in the 1960s was simultaneous with that of the ecological movement, Arte Povera and process art, with each of which it had a kinship. Earthworks can be considered part of the category of works known as environment art.



Also see conceptual art, entropy, interdisciplinary, and living rock.





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