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Earth Art Collage

Earth Art

Started: 1960s

Earth Art Timeline

Quotes

"When a finished work of 20th century sculpture is placed in an 18th century garden, it is absorbed by the ideal representation of the past, thus reinforcing political and social values that are no longer with us."
Robert Smithson
"A work of art when placed in a gallery loses its charge, and becomes a portable object or surface disengaged from the outside world."
Robert Smithson
"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."
Richard Long
"It is a very desolate area, but it is totally accessible, and it can be easily visited, making Sun Tunnels more accessible really than art in museums. Eventually, as many people will see Sun Tunnels as would see many works in a city - in a museum anyway."
Nancy Holt
"I feel that the need to look at the sky - at the moon and the stars - is very basic, and it is inside all of us. So when I say my work is an exteriorization of my own inner reality, I mean I am giving back to people through art what they already have in them."
Nancy Holt
"Every good work should have at least ten meanings."
Walter de Maria
"You could say that my work is also a balance between the patterns of nature and the formalism of human, abstract ideas like lines and circles. It is where my human characteristics meet the natural forces and patterns of the world, and that is really the kind of subject of my work."
Richard Long
"If you want to see the Pieta, you go to Italy. To see the Great Wall, you go to China. My work isn't conceptual art, it's sculpture. You just have to go see it."
Michael Heizer

KEY ARTISTS

Robert SmithsonRobert Smithson
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Walter de MariaWalter de Maria
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Andy GoldsworthyAndy Goldsworthy
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Michael HeizerMichael Heizer
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Nancy HoltNancy Holt
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Richard LongRichard Long
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More Top Artists

"I want to get under the surface. When I work with a leaf, rock, stick, it is not just that material in itself, it is an opening into the processes of life within and around it. When I leave it, these processes continue."

Andy Goldsworthy

Synopsis

Earth art, also referred to as Land art or Earthworks, is largely an American movement that uses the natural landscape to create site-specific structures, art forms, and sculptures. The movement was an outgrowth of Conceptualism and Minimalism: the beginnings of the environmental movement and the rampant commoditization of American art in the late 1960s influenced ideas and works that were, to varying degrees, divorced from the art market. In addition to the monumentality and simplicity of Minimalist objects, the artists were drawn to the humble everyday materials of Arte Povera and the participatory "social sculptures" of Joseph Beuys that stressed performance and creativity in any environment.

Key Ideas

The favored materials for Earthworks were those that could be extracted directly from nature, such as stones, water, gravel, and soil. Influenced by prehistoric artworks such as Stonehenge, Earth artists left their structures exposed to the elements. The resulting ephemerality and eventual disintegration of the works put them outside of the mainstream where works of art were typically coddled and protected in controlled environments.
Earth artists often utilized materials that were available at the site on which their works were constructed and placed, honoring the specificity of the site. Locales were commonly chosen for particular reasons. Robert Smithson, for example, picked damaged sites for his works in order to suggest renewal and rebirth. This idea of site-specificity was something introduced to the art world by Earth art, again placing the artists at the vanguard because their pieces often required wide, open spaces, meaning that many of their works were not available to the average viewer and thus questioned the very purpose of art as something to be viewed.
The rejection of traditional gallery and museum spaces defined Earth art practice. By creating their works outside of these institutions, Earth artists rebuffed the commodity status these venues conferred on art, again challenging traditional definitions of art as something to be bought and sold for profit.

Beginnings

Earth Art Image

Extending Minimalist and Conceptual Ideas

The late 1960s and 1970s was one of the most experimental periods in the history of Western art with many concurrent movements and artists working simultaneously in more than one style, making it sometimes difficult to definitively attach stylistic labels to works from the period. The ethos of Earth art, for example, shared certain characteristics with Minimalism, including its concerns with how objects occupied their space; the interaction of humans with works of art; and, especially, simplicity of form. However, although the adoption of the pared down Minimalist aesthetic was often central to Earth art, the artists were typically hands-on with the documentation and process of production, at times even including a performative element; these characteristics aligned Earth artists more with Post-Minimalist tendencies such as process art, installation art, and performance Art. Earthworks, largely existing outdoors and made of natural elements, were also subject to the natural degradation and erosion that would occur with time, which was antithetical to Minimalism's more industrial and urban aesthetic, making it one of the most unique elements of the Earth art movement.

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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