Monday, January 28, 2013

Effigy Tumuli Sculptures

 Artist Michael Heizer is an excellent example of an artist directly inspired by ancient land art.  Deriving from his trips with his anthropologist father, Heizer uses both social and political commentary in his "Effigy Tumuli Sculptures." The works consist of five earth mounds of river animals completed in 1985. These forms contrast greatly with the artist's previous and present works in their representational rendering. 
Courtesy of California Home + Design

Located in Illinois, the site chosen for the works was previously an open-cast mine.  The land was greatly polluted and hazardous to wildlife. One aim of the project is to re-establish wildlife in the area through the imported unpolluted soil, encouraging the growth of healthy grasses. Heizer's use of river animal forms coincide nicely with the land- reclamation project. What would be more suitable for a wildlife re-establishment initiative than animal forms?

Heizer became aware of Native American mounds, or tumuli, through his travels with his anthropologist dad. These tumuli, like the serpent shaped mound of the Hopewell Indians in Chillicothe, Ohio pictured below, were the major inspiration for these works. The "Effigy Tumuli Sculptures" serve as an effigy to a people destroyed by genocide while providing new life to a polluted land.

Video: Nancy Holt & Robert Smithson - "Swamp"

"Swamp" is a brief film created in 1971 by Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson. In the film, Holt wanders through a swamp, only able to view where she is going through the lens of her camera, and attempting to follow the verbal directions of Smithson.

In Holt's words, the film "deals with the limitations of perception through the camera eye as Bob and I struggle through a muddy New Jersey swamp. Verbal directions cannot easily be followed as the reeds crash against the lens, blocking vision and forming continuously shifting patterns. Confusion ensues."

According to Smithson, "it's about deliberate obstructions or calculated aimlessness."

To me, there is also an element of the confusion involved in humanity's interactions with nature. Smithson says to go forward, and advance in a straight line, invoking a Hegelian notion of progress and civilization (there are no straight lines in nature). This attempt at progress and geometry is continually thwarted by the uneven nature of the terrain, creating a unique and amusing tension.

What do you think the film is about? Is it about anything?

Video: Andrew Rogers' Geoglyphs

This YouTube video focuses on the geoglyphs of Andrew Rogers in Bolivia. When Bolivian authorities invite Rogers to create geoglyphs on their land, he scouts out the area for local symbols and culture and then begins plotting out his designs. The land is blessed first by a religious figure. This is land art that comes with many permissions from the native people.

A unique aspect of Rogers' construction is hiring teams of locals. From my research I've learned he pays double the going rate, and pays women equally (a rarity). As you can see from this video, the Bolivian assembly line of women are laughing and chatting as they work. After completing the geoglyphs high in the Andes Mountains, there is a cultural celebration with music and dancing. These geoglyphs are more than an art project, they're a cultural experience and microcosmic industry.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Individual Scholarly Topic: Mel Chin and Themes of Transformation

Mel Chin’s work blends the lines of science, social activism and art in his use of land.  Though many writers and critics struggle to classify his work, it is often lumped together in the board category of activist art.  This categorization, though it provides a convenient lens through which to view his work, does his work an injustice. Ultimately, Chin’s work is a cross-media poetic expression of change for himself, and others, as well as the transformation towards that change. 

Through my research I will explore how Chin utilizes land to display these themes while transitioning through classifications of political, scientific, and socially minded art.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Individual Scholarly Topic: Andrew Rogers

By making the Earth his canvas, Australian sculptor Andrew Rogers’s “Rhythms of Life” project creates artwork that connects the world and divides artists by using traditional sculptural style, working with locals to create the projects, and covering a lot of ground – literally.

I intend to explore in my scholarly blog posts the unique way Rogers creates these larger-than-life sculptures and why artists don't necessarily consider it "art."

-Hally Joseph

Individual Scholarly Topic: Ana Mendieta

The land-formed art of Ana Mendieta functions as a nexus between the overlapping worlds of body, earth, and ritual. I intend to explore the interactions between these ideas in my writing.
-Steve Morrison

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Defining "Earthworks"

(noun) -- artwork where the art and the landscape are combined, also known as "land art"

The term "earthworks" was coined by Robert Smithson, whose famous Spiral Jetty serves as a ground-breaking example of earthworks. Art is created using natural materials (earth, sand, stone, etc.) and some introduced materials (cement, glass, etc.) to accomplish an aesthetic goal. Land art can exist in its natural environment (the Spiral Jetty, for instance, fluctuates with being underwater and above water in the Great Salt Lake, UT) or in a gallery environment.

Earthworks artists are also known as "Land Artists" and we will be focusing on several throughout the writing of this blog.