Land Art, Earth Art or Earthworks is a movement which emerged in the U.S in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The main theme of this work is that the land is not just a scene or exhibition space for which a sculpture is to be placed. But rather the land is the work and whatever the artist has created shares a special relationship with its surroundings and is a part of it, for without the land the work could not exist.
Most pieces of Land Art have temporary life span, existing only for a short time before being absorbed by the nature around it, or left to erode or decay naturally, this itself being as much the work as its original form. The works are remembered only by photographs or film.
During the 60’s, the hippy era of flower power, free love and freedom of expression probably helped fuel the naturalist sensibility that is Land Art. Really it is a rejection of the perceived artificiality of plastic aesthetic, and huge commercialisation dominating the art world at the end of the 1960’s.
Land Art was inspired by Minimalist Art and Conceptual Art but also by modern movements such as De Stijl and artists such as Joseph Beuys.
Gerry Schum is a German film director, and it was he who coined the name ‘Land Art’ after he directed, produced and acted as cameraman in the 1969 film of the same name. The film is indebted to Schum, who came up with the concept after searching for a new venue for art, which he logically billed as a “television exhibition”
‘Land Art’ showed work from eight American and European artists, Marinus Boezem, Jan Dibbets, Barry Flannigan, Michael Heizer, Richard long, Walter De Maria, Dennis Oppenheim and Robert Smithson.
The artist’s works were created in remote locations which were very unusual for artists at the time, and were intended to be viewed only in Schum’s film. The locations included a moor, a coast, a stone quarry, and a desert. The project was extremely unique and experimental; some of the artists had never worked in such locations before, and some never would again.
“The artists of Land Art sought expressive means of going beyond the limitations of traditional painting on canvas. It was no longer the painted picture but rather the landscape itself or the landscape marked off by the artist that became the actual art object…
The studio-gallery-collector triangle, within which art had previously been played out, was disrupted.” –Gerry Schum
Richard Long is an English sculptor, painter and photographer famous for his stone circles and lines and use of natural substances in his work, such as mud. Several of Long’s works are based on walks he has made, and unique places he has visited, Long using both photographs, text and mapping the land he has walked. His work is usually a response to the environment he has encountered and manipulated in some way, such as the stone line and circle sculptures he has created using stones and rocks he has found. Another prominent feature in Long’s work is the use of finger and hand prints he has made using natural substances.
“I like simple, practical, emotional, quiet, vigorous art. I like the simplicity of walking.” -Richard Long
Andy Goldsworthy is a British photographer, sculptor and environmentalist living in Scotland. He specialises in site specific art as well as Land art. For Goldsworthy nature is no longer just a concept, “My art makes me see again what is there and in this respect I am also rediscovering the child within me…”
Goldsworthy belongs to a younger generation of Land Artists, and so did not participate in Schum’s historic and Land Art film. Yet Goldsworthy’s keen interest in nature, its composition, smell, colour and form earns him a slot amongst the key artists involved in the Land Art movement.
Goldsworthy expresses his travels through nature by making huge nests out of driftwood, skittles made of stone, lines out of leaves that had floated downstream, wilted ferns, and little powdery balls of iron oxide or snow. He then captures his creations on camera, his choice of materials reflecting the diversity of nature. “Photography has become the way I talk about my sculpture.” –Andy Goldsworthy
Nancy Holt is an American artist famed for her Public Sculpture, Installation Art and Land Art. Holt has also produced work in other media including film, photography and writing. Although her most famous work; ‘Sun Tunnels’ were completed in 1976 after three years of planning and installation. The four concrete tubes with varying holes drilled into them are axially orientated on the sun’s farthest position above the horizon. During the summer and winter solstices (two times of the year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator) the tubes become completely filled with light, the drilled holes corresponding to form four constellations, Draco, Perseus, Columba, and Capricornus.
“I wanted to bring the vast space of the desert back to human scale.” –Nancy Holt