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LIFESTYLE

LAND ART OR LANDSCAPE AS A CANVAS

Towards the end of the 60s, desert landscapes form the American West were a field of operations – inspiration – for a group of artists searching to escape the commercial art market. They found it in the return to nature, seen today as an exhibition space and an object of art. Looking at the Earth from space, one can see the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, the complex of greenhouses in the province of Almería in the south of Spain and, depending on the time of year, a curious spiraling formation that is almost one kilometer into Utah’s Great Salt Lake (USA). This is the Spiral Jetty, constructed by Robert Smithson in 1970 with basalt blocks, mud and crystallized salt from the lake itself. This continuously transforming conch made of crystals is, quite possibly, the greatest piece of Land Art. In its saline silence, the Spiral Jetty demands, as all those of its genre, the attention of the observer through the artistic alteration of the landscape, in order to create a connection with it, an emotional connection between man and nature, the land and the environment through sensations. The ecological message is sent from, with and through nature itself.

Going against the generalized tendency in the world of arts to consider the landscape as a secondary genre (without taking into account movements such as Romanticism and Impressionism which re-examined this category), in the 60s and 70s in England and the United States, some of the artists linked to the emerging ecological movements found, in landscapes, the fundamental element for their works of art as well as an exhibition space for them. Landscapes stopped being a mere represented element to become the backbone of the work of art, aside from the example that there were alternatives to the commercial circuit of contemporary art, of the subject and the ‘white cube’.
The transformation of the surroundings has a lot to do with architecture but always under the determinants of nature, that is the only way in which the final work connects with ancestral values, ideas, thoughts and sensations in a much more powerful manner than that provided by a mere visual of the landscape. And, always, with the eternal quality of the ephemeral, the unstoppable force of atmospheric phenomenon and the weather. This is the reason why the photographic, audiovisual and documentary record of works of art is essential for their inclusion in the history of art, far from being forgotten. The photography of the Lightning Field (1974-1977) by Walter de María is a double work of art due to its importance in this form of expression and for being spectacular photography. De María drove 400 steel posts of varying heights into the Quemado desert, to the North of New Mexico, enclosing an almost mythical, and always mystical, space that comes to life during electrical storms when the lightning is attracted by the posts. The Annual Rings (1968) by Dennis Oppenheim; the Rain Shadows by Andy Goldsworthy (1984) in Scotland; Walking a Labyrinth (1971) by Richard Long in Connemara, Ireland; or the Double Negative (1969) by Michael Heizaer in the Nevada desert (USA) are other examples of Land Art.

There are also great pieces of this genre in Spain, the most famous probably being Comb of the Wind (1952-1977) by Eduardo Chillida, in San Sebastian; the Oma Painted Forest by Agustín Ibarrola; the incursions of José María Yturralde, Nacho Criado, Adolfo Schlosser and Eva Lootz. Thus, within the last few years, emerging art has returned prominence to the environment and landscapes and has discovered, in the interventionism in nature, a good cause of action. The Scarpia artistic interventions (Córdoba) are inspired by that creative enthusiasm born in Utah, Nevada and New Mexico and use rocks, trees, soil and wind as their language tools.
Text Bárbara
Photography David O. Stevens

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