Artists: Francis Alÿs, Marinus Boezem, Pierre Bismuth, Tacita Dean, Walter de Maria, Mario Garcia Torres, Nancy Holt, Jan Robert Leegte, Richard Long, Zeger Reyers, Robert Smithson, Theo Tegelaers, James Turrell, Guido van der Werve, Lara Almarcegui
From September 19, 2015 to January 3, 2016, Kunsthal KAdE Amersfoort will host the exhibition Expedition land art. This exhibition is organized around the publication of the book: Expedition land art by Sandra Smallenburg. Although the collections of Dutch museums contain many works by international land art artists, no major exhibition on this movement has yet been shown in the Netherlands. The exhibition at Kunsthal KAdE focuses on six pioneers of the land art movement; Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson, Walter De Maria, James Turrell, Richard Long and Marinus Boezem and their influence on a younger generation of artists, namely Francis Alÿs, Tacita Dean, Mario Garcia Torres, Zeger Reyers, Pierre Bismuth and Lara Almarcegui.
Pioneers land art
In the late 1960s, several artists on both sides of the Atlantic decided to leave the protected, white spaces of galleries and museums behind and head out into the wild. In the United States, Michael Heizer, Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson and Walter De Maria drove deep into the desert to leave their mark on sand flats and salt lakes. In Europe, Richard Long and Marinus Boezem began working with natural materials such as stones and rocks, trees and branches.
Now, almost half a century later, it is only becoming clear how influential these pioneers of land art have been. The idea that you can also create works of art outside established institutions, on the spot, has since become forever rooted in contemporary art. Even a journey can be a work of art; inspiration is there for the taking along the way. Land art has turned art into an adventure. The freedom and bravado evident in the artworks of the 1960s and 1970s still work through in today's art.
Land art at Kunsthal KAdE
This exhibition shows how indebted the current generation of artists is to these land art artists. Francis Alÿs and Guido van der Werve followed in their footsteps to deserts and polar regions. Tacita Dean and Mario Garcia Torres made pilgrimage trips to the places where Robert Smithson worked. Zeger Reyers and Lara Almarcegui like to work with natural materials. They keep the ideas of the pioneers alive by constantly going on adventures of their own.
The exhibition features work by:
Lara Almercegui (ES, 1972) | Francis Alÿs (BE, 1959) | Marinus Boezem (NL, 1934) | Pierre Bismuth (FR, 1963) | Tacita Dean (UK, 1965) | Walter De Maria (US, 1935 - 2013) | Mario Garcia Torres (MX, 1975) | Nancy Holt (US, 1938 - 2014) | Jan Robert Leegte (NL, 1973) | Richard Long (UK, 1945) | Zeger Reyers (NL, 1966) | Robert Smithson (US, 1938 - 1973) | Theo Tegelaers (NL, 1963) | James Turrell (US, 1943) | Guido van der Werve (NL, 1977)
In the main hall, installations include Wood Circle, a 1977 wooden circle 700 cm in diameter by Richard Long from the collection of the Van Abbemuseum and Rietveld moved by fans after the 1968 original by Marinus Boezem on view. The British artist Long creates his works while walking. Along the way, he builds sculptures of stones, hoes lines in the desert sand or lays down circles of branches - images that he then captures in photographs. Since the late 1970s, Long has also been taking that nature back into the museums. Then he puts pieces of slate or chunks of wood together like puzzle pieces until they form a perfect circle or rectangle. With this conceptual work, the Dutch artist Marinus Boezem wants to make the viewer aware of the structure of a cane field by blowing on it with fans and making it undulate. In addition to these life-size installations, various sketches, photographs and prints by both artists are on display. By Richard Long, the installation White Marble Line from 1986 on display.
Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson
One of the cabinets features the film Robert Smithson made about Spiral Jetty. On the eastern shore of Utah's Great Salt Lake, Smithson had 7,000 tons of basalt rock used to construct a 450-foot-long spiral pier in 1970. At the time, algae growth had turned the salt lake a deep red color in places. Smithson, a big fan of J.G. Ballard's science fiction stories, said the landscape reminded him of Mars. Shortly after completion, the pier disappeared due to a rise in the water.
Spiral Jetty did resurface in 2002 after three decades, whitened by salt. Since then, the work of art can be visited again. To get there, you have to drive about thirty kilometers on bumpy dirt roads, across a landscape of otherworldly beauty.
Pilgrimage to Spiral Jetty
British artist Tacita Dean made a pilgrimage to the Spiral Jetty in 1997, but her pilgrimage was stranded at the edge of the Great Salt Lake. Smithson's pier had disappeared beneath the water's surface at the time, and signposts were not there at the time. So Dean searched in vain for the artwork - a search that the sound work Trying to Find the Spiral Jetty which can be heard in the exhibition. Years later, in 2013, Dean traveled to the area again. Following in the footsteps of Smithson and Holt, she made a road trip through Utah, Nevada and California. The otherworldly landscape she filmed there looked as desolate as it did just under half a century ago. In her film JG, also on view in the exhibition, the strange salt crystals of Mono Lake, the bizarre reflections of the Great Salt Lake and the sweltering salt flats of the Great Basin form a timeless backdrop in which armadillos crawl slowly by and water droplets slide along the salt crusts. Also by Dean is the meter-sized engraving Quatemary (234 x 683 cm, 2014) on view.
Green Cathedral and Celestial Vault
Just outside Almere lies a magnificent Gothic cathedral that has literally sprung from the polder soil over the past thirty years. Marinus Boezem planted the church in 1987 by drawing its contours and rows of columns using 178 Italian poplars. Since then, the trees have grown into hefty columns thirty feet tall and the Green Cathedral really as a three-aisled church, with concrete paths reflecting the cross ribs of the imaginary vault. Boezem based the floor plan (150 x 75 meters) on that of Notre-Dame in Reims, the pinnacle of Gothic architecture. In the forest adjacent to the Green Cathedral, the artist spared a clearing exactly the same size: a counter-cathedral. Looking down on it from the air, it is as if the hand of God had lifted a group of trees in the shape of a cathedral and knocked them back down a few hundred meters away.
In the Arizona desert, American artist James Turrell has been working on his masterpiece for more than forty years: Roden Crater. This immense volcanic crater should become a place where visitors can view the sky and stars in their optimal form. In the dunes of Kijkduin, Turrell already created a slightly smaller preview of Roden Crater made: the Heavenly Vault. In this artificial crater, the artist invites you to lie down on a stone bench and stare at the sky. With a little concentration, a small miracle then takes place. The horizon seems to warp, the sky begins to dome, making it seem as if you are caught under a giant cheese cone. By Turrell, Expedition land art features models, photographs and sketches.
From Nancy Holt (wife of Robert Smithson) are the videos: Swamp (1969), Sun Tunnels (1978) and The Making of Amarillo Disaster (1973-2013) and the film Mono Lake (1973-2013) on view. Holt bought a sixteen-acre piece of desert land on the west side of the Great Salt Lake, on the border of Nevada and Utah, in 1974. Here, hours away from civilization, she had four concrete sewer pipes laid - each more than five meters long and weighing 22 tons - which are aligned precisely so that they frame the rising and setting sun on midsummer and midwinter. In the ceilings of the pipes, Holt had holes drilled that corresponded to various constellations. When the bright desert sun shines through them, those galaxies are projected onto the bottom of the tunnels. The tubes are large enough to stand upright in. The circles frame your view of the surroundings - a landscape that has looked untouched for millions of years. They are viewers, but they are also sundials. They mark the course of the seasons, rotating with the earth and catching the sun at set times, like a contemporary version of England's Stonehenge.
'Free Floating Tree' in exhibition hall stairwell
Artist Zeger Reyers creates for Expedition land art a site-specific artwork in the center of Kunsthal KAdE's split-level stairwell. Reyers places a living tree horizontally in the stairwell 'Free Floating Tree'. By tilting the tree's natural growth vector, its vigor and potential are visually frustrated, but at the same time the tree is enticed by an artificial light to grow thereafter. The work also plays with the current conception of cultivated greenery, which is all too often implemented in the living environment in a frenetic manner.
'Free Floating Tree' will -in a different form- also be featured in the exhibition The Course of Things (about cause and effect from Jan. 23 to May 8, 2016).
Breaking Ground: Broken Circle / Spiral Hill
In the movie theater is 'Breaking Ground: Broken Circle / Spiral Hill' (1971-2011) on view. American artist Robert Smithson realized a world-famous land art work; 'Broken Circle/ Spiral Hill' (1971) in the De Boer company's sand excavation in Emmerschans, near Emmen. Smithson always made a video as part of his "earthworks," shot from an airplane or helicopter. Due to his untimely death in 1973, the video of Broken Circle/ Spiral Hill never able to complete it. 40 years after its completion in Emmen, the video, under the final editing of artist Nancy Holt and in collaboration with SKOR (Theo Tegelaars) and a Dutch crew, has been realized after all. The video combines the original film material from 1971 with new image and sound recordings made in Emmen in the spring of 2011.
Land art pioneer spirit lives on among contemporary artists
Those with an eye for it recognize the pioneering spirit of land art artists in the work of numerous contemporary artists. You can see it in the magical video Nummer Acht: Everything is going to be alright (2007) by Guido van der Werve, in which the artist walks alone across an ice plain while being chased by an enormous icebreaker. That same pioneering spirit can be found in the work "When Faith Moves Mountains" made by Francis Alÿs just outside Lima, Peru in 2002 and in the film The Schlieren Plot by Mexican artist Mario Garcia Torres. Since 2013, Spiral Jetty of Robert Smithson also continued in the digital world. Then the spiral pier popped up in the virtual landscape of the popular video game Minecraft. "Spiral Jetty is the archetype of land art," he said. thinks Jan Robert Leegte, creator of the digital Spiral Jetty. That's why he had to get a spot in the game. From Leegte is in Expedition land art the video 'Remake of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty in Minecraft' (2013) to be seen.