Emerged during the industrialization time, the Land Art movement was marked as a landmark of artists all over the world. This type of artform was shaped when the artists sought a broader perspective for art. The movement marked the revival of art at the time when everyone was running towards the crowd of a new era of industrialization. Land Art evolved with nature, which is a concept that dates back to earlier times too. This art is about creating structures and art forms out of the natural landscapes without interfering much with the natural ecology of the place. The Land Art movement also marked the revival of the lost ancient earthwork style. 

One of the best examples of such Land Art is Serpent Mound in Ohio. This mound-shaped serpent is estimated to have been built by the Adena culture around 300 B.C. Though there are various speculations regarding the symbolic meaning of the mound, this earthwork represents a mark of ancient people and the use of Land Art way before the present time. Serpent mound is one of the finest examples of ancient monumental art, inspiring several artists later that period too. 

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Serpent Mound in Ohio_©abcnews.go.com
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Serpent Mound in Ohio_©www.archaeologicalconservancy.org

The Land Art movement came out as an outgrowth of conceptualism. During this time, the artists could express themselves more cohesively. These artists at that time believed that any art piece could not be judged merely by its aesthetics, skills, or marketability. The conceptual artists were also influenced by minimalism, being depicted through their land artworks. In these art forms, the artists have avoided the use of attention to the materiality of the artwork. This new theory regarding art and its aesthetics changed the perspectives of so many great artists and designers. Gradually along with this new theory, the artists also got inclined to the Arte Povera movement. This movement started as one of the most significant benchmarks in art. Arte Povera, an Italian term meaning “ Poor art”, became one of the most important terms in modern art, and brought a new revolution in the art. The artists started using commonplace materials like – earth, rocks, clothing, paper, rope, and all other such cheap and readily available materials. This was a bold step in the field of art where materiality played a major role till the time, yet it flourished among the people who admired art.

The Land Art movement brought a new revolution in art. Following one of the principles of Arte Povera, this movement brought new materials into the art field. The materials then used were extracted directly from nature such as stone, water, gravel, and soil. Thus the usage of such materials made this art form a degradable art that eventually disintegrated with time. These art forms are usually made in-situ using the materials available on the site only. One of the examples of such works is the ‘Spiral Jetty’ by Robert Smithson. The artwork is in Rozel Point on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, Utah. In this artwork, Smithson Displaced around 6,000 tons of black basalt rock and earth of hardened lava from the adjacent shore and then formed a 1500 feet long coil-like form. Even the site for the art form is able to reflect the artist’s concept of entropy with its fractured landscape, altering water levels and water’s salinity. Thus with these characteristics, the Spiral Jetty came out as one of the best land artforms to date. 

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Robert Smithson onlooking his artwork- the Spiral Jetty_©holtsmithsonfoundation.org
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Robert Smithson onlooking his artwork- the Spiral Jetty_©holtsmithsonfoundation.org

Similarly, many other Land Art artists emerged during the Land Art movement. Nancy Holt, Marinus Boezum, Alan Sonfist, are some of the artists who grasped this opportunity to showcase their art. Their works have always succeeded to stand out and mark the movement which brought Land Art into the view of the people and artists. The Sun Tunnel, a Land Art by Nancy Holt, is among the finest examples of depicting the rise of Land Art as a medium for gradually emerging artists. The Sun Tunnel focuses on the act of framing and emphasizes the importance of visual observation as a whole. Nancy Holt has tried to show a composed composition of massive cylindrical, concrete forms.

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The Sun Tunnel by Nancy Holt_©www.artnews.com

The Green Cathedral by Marinus Boezem is also a fine example of Land Art. This cathedral does not function like any other religious cathedral, rather is more of a social place. With the transparent walls of full-grown trees and an open-to-sky ceiling, the Land Art serves as an integral part of the cultural and social life of the people around. Many wedding ceremonies, as well as musical performances, are conducted over here. The whole atmosphere amidst the Green Cathedral composes a beautiful composition, intermingling with its natural surroundings. This green Land Art beautifully depicts the importance of our nature as the building not only brings one closer to nature but also emphasizes art as a form not only confined to a piece of paper or a canvas but holding a much deeper meaning.

Similarly, Alan Sonfist, one of the founding fathers of Land Art, also did various works depicting his ideas and concepts regarding the environment as well as the ecology of a place. Time Landscape is regarded as one of his finest works emphasizing the importance of environment, nature, and the need for their balance in our lives. Time Landscape is a rectangular square piece of land with a variety of indigenous plants amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City. In this project, Alan has grown trees, plants, and shrubs from the pre-colonial era and this also did bring a new positive change to the natural surroundings of the place. 

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Alan Sonfist’s The time Landscape_©www.pinterest.ie
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Alan Sonfist’s- The time Landscape_©www.pinterest.ie

Thus for years, despite being a matter of protests by several contemporary artists, the Land Art movement succeeded in leaving footprints on the sands of time. This art movement clearly did bring a new change to art, and give a new and fresh meaning to it. 

References:

  1. https://www.theartstory.org/movement/earth-art/
  2. https://www.theartstory.org/movement/conceptual-art/
  3. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/land-art.htm#origins
  4. https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/museum-and-site-locator/serpent-mound
  5. https://www.mediamatic.net/en/page/44458/marinus-boezem-the-green-cathedral-1978-1996
  6. https://rs108814p2.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/time-landscape/
  7. https://www.diaart.org/visit/visit-our-locations-sites/robert-smithson-spiral-jetty
Author

Sameeksha, currently pursuing her architecture degree, is also inclined towards writing and pouring out her thoughts. Being an writing enthusiast as well as an architecture student, she constantly tries to grab every opportunity for writing and express her views for the built environment.

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