Land art emerged in the late 1960s among a subset of pioneering artists who were investigating natural sites, alternative modes of artistic production, and ways to circumvent the commercial art system. What began as a trend in sculpture to incorporate natural materials like dirt, rocks, and plants quickly grew into a process-based approach to art-making in which the artist would make excursions into the surrounding environment to either collect objects or perform site-specific interventions.
Land artists were especially attracted to the vast spaces and sublime emptiness of the American West. The austere environments of the Great Basin and the Colorado Plateau offered an abundance of space and material far removed from the urban centers of the art world. In Utah, we are fortunate to live in proximity to such grand artistic achievements, specifically Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) and Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels (1973–76). The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is uniquely positioned to serve as a jumping-off point for an exploration of Land art. The links to your right provide information about these fascinating and important works of art as well as the necessary tools to prepare for your own excursion.
LEFT | Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, (1970). Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Art © Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. RIGHT | October 20, 2012, Sun Tunnels viewing with Nancy Holt, hosted by the UMFA as part of Nancy Holt: Sightlines, a traveling exhibition organized by the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, on view October 19, 2012–January 20, 2013 at the UMFA. UMFA photo.
Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970)
Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels (1973–76)
ARTLandish: Land Art, Landscape,
and the Environment