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Land Art History

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When it emerged in the sixties among the crush of several other art movements (Pop Art, Minimalism, among others) Land Art came to be an anti-gallery artistic offshoot that straddled the domain between architecture and sculpture. It had no manifestos nor schools nor leaders and it was not quite a movement; the artists who were involved with it were also involved in other types of arts. Land art was labelled as modern ‘sculpture’ but its versatility and introduction of new concepts and visual materials made it difficult to ascribe it to one field or term. Later on, the term “Earth Works,” coined by Robert Smithson came to use but Earth Works only refers to works that use earth while Land Art is an all-encompassing umbrella that includes works…show more content…
Michael Heizer, a prominent Land Artists of the time grew up travelling to archeological sites and digs around the world with his archeologist father. Robert Smithson also travelled extensively with his wife Nancy Holt and did see some monumental works, especially in America. So but then were the intentions of these civilizations long past gone the same as the modern Land Artists? The general answer is yes. According to Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama, there can be no landscape without history. Humans have transformed nature into landscapes by the addition of memory on the land, distinguishing between continents and towns. “We propose that landworks are the artists’ effort of transforming the land in order to add layers of memory onto it, thereby creating landscapes.” Cultures differ but human behavior remain largely the same. Land artists moved out of the city and into the Midwestern United States (and some parts of New Jersey) because they wanted more space for the sheer scale they worked in but also because they wanted land that was isolated and untouched; land that was still mostly nature and hadn’t been culled by as many layers of memory as could be found in the cities. For this reason, we shall concentrate on the similarities between works of the American Land Artists and the monumental vernacular works of Pre-Columbus…show more content…
Smithson’s work Broken Circle & Spiral Hill is two different works situated near each other. It is actually not in America but was commissioned for an exhibition in the Netherlands near Emmen. Spiral Hill is an earth mound that coils clockwise unto itself, like a sleeping snake. When it was completed it was just shaped earth but in current day it is covered in green grass. Situated nearby on the edge of the shore and into the water is the Broken Circle; its site was actually a functioning sand and gravel quarry which was filled with green water. Smithson played with the negative and positive space in such a way that the broken circle whose alternating arms are shaped with white and yellow sand, recalls the Chinese Yin Yang symbol. In the middle of the positive space half circle sits a boulder and this is yet again another allusion to monumental works of the past, this one appropriately native to Dutch lands. “Yet the center boulder in fact significantly expands the associative levels of this work because it offers a direct tie to prehistory. . . . In the Bronze Age they [this type of large rock] were used to make huge dolmens and
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