As much as I love it, Brian Sholis’s new blog reminds me how little I actually read and think these days. Here’s a quote from an excellent essay he points to by Lucy Lippard on the changing context for the Land Art that was built in the 1960’s and early 1970’s:
I’ve lived in the New West–urban and rural–for twenty-one years now, and my sense of the earthworks I knew and touted in the 1960s has changed quite drastically. In 1995, I gave a talk in Marfa, Texas, called “Land Art in the Rearview Mirror,” in which I discussed having “gone on down the road” to preferring an art that was “place specific” rather than “site specific.” Arguing for a microview of land and art, and for grassroots connections, I realized that monumental land art takes much of its power from distance–distance from people, from places, and from issues–while my own interests had come to focus almost entirely on the nearby, on “specific places as they reflect the interactions between people and what we call ‘nature,’ which includes people.” My views of land art have changed not because I have less respect for the older work, but because the better I know the New West, the more my attention is claimed by the sideshows, or the side-of-the-road shows.
In the 1960s, when land art was new, the expansion of consciousness offered was visual and aesthetic, perhaps even social, since it brought provincial New Yorkers out of their cocoons and into the West. It would have seemed crass to demand more of an art that prided itself on isolation. Artists were thinking on a grand (sometimes grandiose) scale. There were even religious undertones along the lines of the nineteenth-century “sublime.” (James Turrell spoke eloquently at the 1995 Marfa symposium about “directing vision toward a larger sort of space” and “making spaces that see.”) Forty years later, climate change, shrinking resources, and an administration bent on destroying the environment for corporate gain have changed the rules of the game. There is a point at which artists too have to take some responsibility for the things they love, a point at which the overview of magnificent scenery gives way to a more painfully focused vision of a fragile landscape and its bewildered inhabitants.
Funny, or not, that as recently as 2002, Nico Israel was still writing in Artforum as the provincial New Yorker braving the truck stop and strip mall savages of the New West as he made his Land Art pilgrimages.
Peripheral Vision by Lucy Lippard, in the 10/29/08 issue of NYFA Current [nyfa.org, reg req]
Lucy Lippard’s changing views of Land art [The Search Was the Thing]