Stranger Than Paradise

The World’s Best Land Art

"The strata of the Earth is a jumbled museum,” wrote land art pioneer Robert Smithson in Artforum in 1968. Smithson earnestly advocated an art that would escape the commercial confines of indoor exhibition and engage with the world. He and his cohorts (including Walter de Maria, Nancy Holt and Michael Heizer) were to define the concept of “earth works” in the early 70s, creating striking site-specific outdoor interventions that impacted the landscape as much as they did the art world’s critical dialectic. But these artists were far from the first to treat the natural world as both muse and canvas. From the giant geoglyphs of the Nazca desert in Peru, dating as far back as 200 BC, to Francis Alÿs’s earth-moving performance piece When Faith Moves Mountains, to the extravagant built-for-leisure landmasses of the Palm Islands in Dubai, our planet’s history is punctuated by man’s tangoing with the fabric of nature itself. “For me, marking the earth is an opportunity to measure and consider what is directly at hand and what is cosmic,” says Californian chef-turned-artist Jim Denevan, who last year outdid even the enormous Nazca lines with his three mile-wide sand drawing in the Nevada deserts. “The big curves I cut in the earth are intimate and superfluous,” he continues. "They can be considered or ignored. They are left.” Today, we present a gallery of the world's finest collisions between art and land.
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