Critical essay, initial research

I have decided to focus on Land Art as the subject of my critical essay as this is an area which interests me and which I would like to understand more about. I have researched Land Art, borrowing books from the library. I have also chosen to focus more on Richard Long s I would like to understand more about him.

Richard Long, A Line Made By Walking, 1967

The notes which I have taken are shown below,

Land Art, Ben Tufnell

  • 1968, American artist Michael Heizer went to dry lake in Mojave Desert – blank space seen to him like blank canvas. Made art using lake bed.
  • Unusual, Walter De Maria, Two Parallel Lines (Mile Long Drawing) 1968 – have to travel along it and travel far to see it.
  • Giuseppe Penone – ‘One of the problems of sculpture is contact, the idea alone isn’t enough, it doesn’t work, an action is necessary. The action is transmitted through contact.’
  • Penone, ‘Maritime Alps. It will go on growing except at that point,’ 1968-78, grasped tree and marked point of contact. Added bronze cast of his hand. Grows, not where pressure of hand is, swelling around it. Interaction with him. Collaboration w/ nature.
  • Richard Long, ‘A Ten Mile Walk, England,’ 1968 – at first seems like De Maria’s lines in desert. However, v. diff. engagement. Left no trace. Reality for artist through experience but for viewer, only see map w/ route on it. Conceptual. Sculptural – passage through space.
  • Long – ‘In the mid-sixties the language and ambition of art was due for renewal. I felt art had barely recognized the natural landscapes which cover this planet, or had used the experiences those places could offer. Starting on my own doorstep and later spreading, part of my work since has been to try to engage this potential. I see it as abstract art laid down in the real spaces of the world.’
  • Trauma and idealism – 1968 = year of radical change, reassessment, revolution. Idealism of early 1960s gave way to discontent – questioning civil codes and societal structures. Cold War. Anti-war and civil rights demonstrations. Race riots and assassinations of MLK Jr and Robert Kennedy. Troubled state of America. Discontent also in Europe – widespread unrest. Threat of nuclear warfare = real possibility. Ecological issues becoming more prominent – earlier arguments made now more widely understood, e.g. Rache Carson’s Silent Spring, 1962.
  • Land art reflected socio-cultural conditions of its time. Originated during period of conflict, paradox of idealism and trauma, encoded within genre.
  • Misconception that land art all form of environmental consciousness and protest, some are but some non-committal and apolitical.
  • Scarring of landscape, ecological reclamation of industrially damaged land. Leaving no trace out of respect.
  • Ideas of birth and burial, life and death. Complexity of our relationships w/ landscape and nature at end of 20C
  • Many artists have rejected the label ‘Land art’ – term too historically specific, early 1970s denoting American earthworks
  • Open and non-specific term = broad grouping = differences, e.g. between European and American artists – e.g. on De Maria and Heizer, Long said, ‘My interest was in a more thoughtful view of art and nature, making art both visible and invisible, using ideas, walking, stones, tracks, water, time, etc. in a flexible way… It was the antithesis of so-called American Land Art, where the artist needed money to be an artist, to buy real estate, to claim possession of the land and wield machinery. True capitalist art.
  • However, similarities in land art – themes – our relationships with land and nature. Changes in art, culture and society.
  • ‘And immediate and visceral interaction with landscape, nature and the environment.’ ‘Primarily physical and non-representational.’
  • Setting v. important, as important as arrangement within. The art changes our response to a place landscape or nature.
  • Land art often said limited to 1968 – 1977, not true. Work still made, also younger artists now experimenting with it.


  • Simplicity – ‘I use stones because I like stones or because they’re easy to find, without being anything special, so common that you can find them anywhere. I don’t have to have a special skill or talent for using them. I don’t have to bring anything to them, I can just make a sculpture.’
  • Hands-on, undemonstrative, non-theoretical approach.
  • Ideas about time, space and experience.
  • Sculptor David Nash said, ‘Long liberated us, I respect him for liberating a lot of artists by just stepping over the boundaries of object-making.’
  • Sculptures made on walks, in the landscape, documented by photography. And sculptures made in the gallery as a response to space and locality.
  • Interest in ideas of relativity – e.g. ‘Engadine Walk,’ 2004. Enforces human sense of fragility and frailty in, and in contrast to, nature.
  • ‘My work has become a simple metaphor of life. A figure walking down his road, making his mark. It is an affirmation of my human scale and senses: how far I walk, what stones I pick up, my particular experiences. Nature has more effect on me than I on it. I am content with the vocabulary of universal and common means; walking, placing, stones, sticks, water, circles, lines, days, nights, roads.’


  • Great Salt Lake, ‘Spiral Jetty’, draught revealing spiral structure coberec w/ white crystals. Built 1970. Lake rose 1972, covering it.
  • Long = practical, non-theoretical. Smithson = theorized, focus on different media and complex methods of presentation
  • Most work = focus on cities, Long = interest in rural landscapes and natural wilderness.
  • Long = minimum intervention w/ landscape, often returning to original state.
  • Both focus on time and importance of site specitivity
  • Early interest in natural history
  • Site and nonsite
  • Dialectic between locations – not just representing the site as contains actual material from site.


Richard Long Prints 1970 – 2013
Foreword, Harald Kunde, Hubertus Garßner, Stephen Snoddy

  • Dec 1999, Long presented four offset lithographs of portfolio, ‘Being in the Moment.’ At Museum Kurhaus Kleve.
  • Midsummer Flint Line, 2001, flints from Cornwall, dualism between exact limitation and the openness of their inner structure. Personal freedom, Richard long creating essence of his experience of existence.
  • Focus on primary material and coordinates of existential ordering systems: space, time, movement, action


Richard Long, Walking in Circles, Thames and Hudson

  • Time past and time presence, the visible and invisible
  • ‘Beneath an air of calm simplicity the viewer is bombarded with colours, sounds, sights and tactile experiences.’
  • Long – ‘My work is real not illusory or conceptual. It is about real stones, real time, real actions. I use the world as I find it.
  • Artists are map-makers of consciousness and of the spiritual world, measurers and describers of the natural world.
  • Brain works in terms of ratio and proportion – can be seen as a map, measurements. Recorder of time and space.
  • Long’s simplistic actions draw our attention towards cycles of life and movements in nature, e.g rivers, wind, trees. Structure of life. Walking = typical mode of human movement.
  • Parts of his work classed under Minimal Art + Conceptual Art. Simplicity, practicality, intuitiveness
  • Interaction w/ nature
  • Uses nature ‘with respect and freedom’, makes work ‘for the land, not against it’
  • ‘Nature has more effect on me than I on it.’ – unlike other land artist, doesn’t change land too much
  • Sculptures created in the likeness of nature – materials, scales of movement and time
  • Simple and not take too long, like simple, natural, geometric forms bases images on.
  • ‘Places give me the energu for ideas.’
  • Spontaneous creation of sculptures


TED Talks, Land Art: Nancy L. Fleming

  • 4 key characteristics of land art:
  • Genius Loci – ‘Spirit of Place’, e.g. Walter de Maria, Lightning field. Walk through, experience and experience landscape
  • Temporal – relates to time, e.g. Andy Goldsworthy’s work is ephemeral, e.g. icicles – melts and disappears
  • Particiaptory – e.g. downed tree in France, look at roots, get close. Interesting and educational.
  • Public
  • Community – artists work together.

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