Tuesday, March 09, 2010

March 10 Land Art Talk

Land Art was more common when culture was more tied to land. We have examples like the serpentine burial mound. More intimate art made in nature, art on land, has a similarly long history; it has long been reabsorbed by nature too.

The modern era of land art began in the 1960's, an early post modern, post commercial movement. Lightning Field by DeMaria is a spectacular array of properly grounded lightening rods in a sparse field, at once installation and performance. Early the province of men with machines, pushing the land around, land art was termed by Smithson "abstract geology". With the first Earth Day in 1970, many land artists shifted to less destructive work, even to constructive repair of industrial wasteland. Smithson's wife, Nancy Holt, operated with a more subtle touch, creating Sun Tunnels, without digging into wilderness. Later she worked on reclamation projects. Andrea Zittel and friends in Joshua Tree have created the High Desert Test Sites project, focused on annual celebration of art on land. The Center for Land Use Interpretation repurposes documentation of past landscape alteration to art.

I have always been puzzled why art on land is not a stronger movement in the Northwest. Relatively untamed nature dominates our landscape. There was a long running series based in Seattle, Horsehead, created by Matthew Lennon. There is occasional work in Tryon Creek Park, it is not well publicized. Portlander, Scott Wayne Indiana, now in New York, organized a weekend sculpture invitational at Mt Scott Park in 2006.

Tonight maybe we have a chance to restart, with a talk by professor William Gilbert. Gilbert has the obscure honor to hold the "Lannan Chair in Land Arts of the American West in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico". I am not making this up, and I'm glad it exists. Lannan speaks on the history of Western land art, and perhaps it reemergence.

He teaches land art and art on the land. Students travel and camp for weeks in the West, observing ancient native art, to Smithson, Holt and DeMaria, to epic alterations like the Hoover Dam, while making their own land work, on the land, as well as bringing it back to the gallery.

At PNCA www.pnca.edu 1241 NW Johnson 6:30PM-8 Free