this issue contains
>> Landscape Painting in the Deutsche Bank Collection
>> Second nature: Landscape and Photography
>> Ernesto Neto: Journeys into Inner Landscapes
>> Land Art: Breaking of the Art Space

>> archive


Michael Heizer, Levitated Mass, 1983
Deutsche Bank Collection

Michael Heizer, Displaced-Replaced Mass No.113,
Nevada Silver Springs, 1969

Yet the Land Artists weren't interested in the direct naturalness of an environment. They were far more concerned with aesthetic interventions that transformed the landscape into an arena of cultural signs. Thus, for Cancelled Crop (1969), Dennis Oppenheim first planted a square segment of field with corn in order to later cut a huge X out of the crop with a harvester; for Oppenheim, the entire process was related to the production of a painting: "Planting and cultivating my own material is like mining one's own pigment (for paint)."

In terms of its concentration on materiality, Land Art is also a late result of Minimalism, which was concerned with an art of pure form in which sculptures and objects aren't supposed to refer to anything but themselves. Laid out on the gallery floor, Carl Andre's leaden sheets, for instance, delineate an aesthetic area in a manner similar to Walter de Maria's Lightning Field (1977) in New Mexico, which consists of 400 rods of polished steel installed 75 yards apart from one another. Yet what constitutes no more than 40 square feet of floor surface in Andre's work measures 1 x 1.5 kilometers in the de Maria work - a scale at which Land Art turned the world itself into its gallery.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California 1972-76
Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 1976 Christo

As the art theoretician Rosalind Krauss has written, Land Art is, indeed, an "expanded field." This expansion, however, came about as a reaction to the white cube limitations of the gallery after Minimal Art's installations had already departed from the pedestal sculpture and the painting on the wall.

Christo, Running Fence Project 1976, 1975
Deutsche Bank Collection

Land Art took the geometric shapes of the Minimalists, dissected them into their smallest components, and then experimented with lines, curves, and zigzags in the outdoors. In Europe, the British artist Richard Long planned his walks across Cornwall in such a way that overlapping rectangles arose along paths he marked with pieces of wood or stones. The instructions he gave for these actions are consciously reminiscent of a children's rhyme: "Five, six, pick up sticks / Seven, eight, lay them straight." When Robert Smithson poured tons of rubble into the Salt Lake in Utah for his project Spiral Jetty in 1971, he had the simple figure of a spiral in mind that was to jut into the Salt Lake as a kind of peninsula. And the Land Art projects realized by Christo and Jeanne-Claude - such as Valley Curtain (1970-1972), for which they covered a gorge in Colorado with orange-colored fabric, or, four years later, Running Fence, which consisted of white fabric covering an 18.5 mile-long expanse of the Californian coast - are, in their visual clarity, late heirs of the monochrome painting of a Barnett Newman.

Richard Long, Wind Stones, aus "Für Joseph Beuys", 1986
Deutsche Bank Collection

The scale of such projects alone is reminiscent of the idea of the sublime. Just as the experience of boundless nature repeatedly lends the philosophy of Edmund Burke or Immanuel Kant a sense of aesthetic awe and sublimity, in Land Art, the viewer stands before a work of art that's impossible to grasp, one that far surpasses the human sense of scale by its sheer size alone. How was one to imagine the real dimensions of Walter de Maria's Earth Kilometer from the 1972 documenta V, which was drilled with an iron pipe into the earth? Who could have seen Michael Heizer's 400 yard-long earth loop Isolated Mass from 1968 as an abstract line dug ten feet deep into the floor of the Nevada desert?

Christo & Jeanne Claude, Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida, 1980-83, (Cibacrome) Deutsche Bank Collection

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