Land art 1960 – 1970

International art form that developed particularly from the late 1960s and early 1970s It was part of a revolt against painting and sculpture and the anti-formalist current of the late 1960s that included conceptual art and Arte Povera A number of mainly British and North American artists turned their attention to working directly with nature, notably Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, and Richard Long They created immense sculptures on the same scale as landscape itself, or exhibited written and photographic accounts of their excursions With few exceptions, their works (also known as earthworks) are almost inaccessible, situated far from human settlements in deserts or abandoned areas Their lifespan was brief: little by little they were destroyed by the elements and often by erosion, so that for posterity they exist only in the form of preparatory drawings, photographs, or films The works themselves were seen by only a small number of people and sometimes by only the artist

Land art, earthworks (coined by Robert Smithson[citation needed]), or Earth art is an art movement in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked It is also an art form that is created in nature, using natural materials such as soil, rock (bed rock, boulders, stones), organic media (logs, branches, leaves), and water with introduced materials such as concrete, metal, asphalt, or mineral pigments Sculptures are not placed in the landscape, rather, the landscape is the means of their creation Often earth moving equipment is involved The works frequently exist in the open, located well away from civilization, left to change and erode under natural conditions Many of the first works, created in the deserts of Nevada, New Mexico, Utah or Arizona were ephemeral in nature and now only exist as video recordings or photographic documents They also pioneered a category of art called site-specific sculpture, designed for a particular outdoor location

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Land art is an artistic protest against the “perceived artificiality, plastic aesthetics and ruthless commercialization” of art in America in the late 1960s 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 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 is a pioneer of an alternative approach to working with nature and culture that he began in 1965 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

The movement began in October 1968 with the group exhibition “Earth Works” 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