Patricia Johanson, Stephen Long, 1968, 16mm film transferred to DVD, 1968, Edited by Joanna Alexander, WNET-TV, New York, 2011, 5 minutes, Museum of Modern Art Film Archive © Patricia Johanson, Photo: courtesy the artist.

Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison, Hog Pasture: Survival Piece #1, 1970-71, Wooden container of earth with light box of equal size above, planted with R. Shumway Seedsman’s Annual Hog Pasture Mix, 48 x 96 x 144", Installation view, Earth, Air, Fire, Water exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA 1971, Photo: courtesy the artists

Michael Snow, La région centrale, 1971, 16mm film, 191 minutes, © Michael Snow, Image courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY.

Charles Simonds, Landscape <->Body<-> Dwelling, 1973, Filmstill, 16 mm film transferred to DVD, color and sound, 7 minutes, Collection of the artist, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012.

The Spontaneous Impulse of Land Art before there was 'Land Art'

Les Levine, Systems Burn-off × Residual Software, 1969 / 2012, 1,000 copies each of 31 photographs taken at the March 1969 opening of Earth Art, Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Jell-O, and chewing gum, Recreated for Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2012, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist.

Les Levine, Systems Burn-off × Residual Software, 1969 / 2012, 1,000 copies each of 31 photographs taken at the March 1969 opening of Earth Art, Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Jell-O, and chewing gum, Recreated for Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2012, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist.

Kristjan Gudmundsson, Painting of the specific gravity of the planet Earth, 1972-73, Acrylic on metal, 41 x 41.7 x 7 cm, 507.33 gr/91.760 mm3, Solveig Magnusdottir, Reykjavik.

Robert Kinmont, 8 Natural Handstands (detail), 1969/2009, nine silver gelatin prints, 21.5 x 21.5 cm, Image courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York.

Judy Chicago, Immolation IV from the Women and Smoke Series, © Judy Chicago, 1972, Flares, Performed with Faith Wilding in the California desert, Photo courtesy of Through the Flower housed at the Penn State University Archives.

Keith Arnatt, Liverpool Beach Burial, 1968, Vintage silver gelatin print, printed by the artist, 10 1/4 x 7 1/8", Estate of Keith Arnatt, London, Image courtesy Maureen Paley, London and The Estate of Keith Arnatt.


Haus Der Kunst
Prinzregentenstrasse 1
+ 49 89 21127 115
Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974
October 11, 2012-January 20, 2013

Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles
Geffen Contemporary
152 North Central Avenue
Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974
May 27-September 3, 2012

As the first major museum exhibition on Land Art, Ends of the Earth provides the most comprehensive historical overview of this art movement to date. Land Art used the earth as its material and the land as its medium, thereby creating works beyond the familiar spatial framework of the art system.

The time period covered in Ends of the Earth spans the 1960s to 1974, when, in the context of Land Art, movements such as Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Happenings, Performance Art, and Arte povera, became more distinct and began to diverge.

Works by artists from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Iceland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Switzerland demonstrate that Land Art was not a North American phenomenon. The exhibition presents works less well known than the canonical Spiral Jetty, Lightning Field and Double Negative, creating a shift in perspective.

By including works of then-participating artists, the show refers to the earlier and pioneering exhibitions Earthworks and Earth Art (New York, 1968 and 1969). Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria are interested in realizations in outside and lend the mediated part within an exhibition only secondary importance. They are not included in this presentation.

Even before the emergence of the movement in the 1960s, artists from varied locations around the globe were moved to claim the earth and use land as an artistic medium. This also included the examination of the nature of the earth as a planet. Yves Klein, for instance, wondered what the earth looked like from space. In 1961, he transformed his vision that the dominant color from this perspective would be blue, and that all man-made boundaries could be overcome with this color, into his series Planetary Reliefs.

Land Art artists often worked under the open sky, making productive of the fact that the great outdoors posed other conditions for a work's lifespan than enclosed spaces. Some works only existed for the short time of their creation, like Judy Chicago's ephemeral works consisting of colored flames and smoke, which served as references to religious ceremonies and the landscape as a deity. For ten weeks, the cliffs along Little Bay, Sydney, were packed in synthetic fabric and rope for Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet, which, was enormous in scale. Another famous work of similar proportions was Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson; on the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, the artist built a 1,500-foot long spiral-shaped jetty made of material found on site.

Land Art artists were fascinated by remote locations like deserts. Hreinn Fridfinnsson constructed a house on an uninhabited lava field near Reykjavik. The inside made of corrugated sheet metal and the outside covered in wall paper, because, as wall paper is intended to please the eye, "it is reasonable to have it on the outside, where more people can enjoy it." Some artists transported conditions of specific places into exhibition spaces: Japanese artist group "i" moved four truckloads of gravel on a conveyor belt into an exhibition space and arranged it into a pile. Alice Aycock filled a minimalistic grid with wet clay. This work is recreated for the exhibition in Haus der Kunst; the clay dries out during the run of the exhibition, cracks and gradually comes to resemble the land in California's Death Valley (Clay #2, 1971/2012). With Hog Pasture: Survival Piece #1 (1970-71/2012), not only does new material — in this case a green pasture — make its way on into the museum but a live domestic pig as well, which pastures on the meadow from time to time.

From the earliest days of the movement, collectors, patrons, art dealers, and curators also explored sensitively which works of Land Art could be exhibited in museums and galleries, and how this should be done. In their own way, they helped establish Land Art as a legitimate artistic genre. In the case of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty an art dealer helped fund production of an accompanying film, and the work was executed in three equally valid versions: as the site-specific headland, as an eponymous essay and as a film.

In general, language, film, and photography played a central role in Land Art's creation and development. Land Art artists and members of the media established close connections to one another. Magazines and television stations ommissioned art works and were the first to publish these. Now legendary is Gerry Schum's Fernsehgalerie, which was the first exhibition created for television and was broadcast by Sender Freies Berlin on April 15, 1969. For eight consecutive days in October of that same year, the WDR television network interrupted its regularly scheduled programs, at 8:15 pm and 9:15 pm, for a few seconds and presented the eight photographs of Keith Arnatt's Self-Burial, which depicted the artist gradually sinking into the ground. The television station refrained from accompanying this with an introduction or commentary.

Following the presentation of Tinguely's self-destructing sculpture Hommage à New York, the NBC television network commissioned the artist to create a work. In collaboration with Niki de Saint-Phalle, Tinguely made a large-scale kinetic
sculpture out of waste material he had found in and around Las Vegas. The work was used in choreographed explosions that took place south-west of Las Vegas near a nuclear test site. Tinguely's spectacle was presented in the same newscast as was a major report about the international nuclear talks, which took place that same week.

Many other works touched on the subject of "this tortured earth", as Isamu Noguchi described it. Land Art artists examined the wounds and scars that humans inflict on the planet earth, whether by the war machinery (Robert Barry, Isamu Noguchi), dictatorships (Artur Barrio), nuclear testing (Heinz Mack, Jean Tinguely, Adrian Piper) or colonization (Yitzhak Danziger). The media's intensive coverage of Land Art activities led to unusual and complex contributions. Receptive to Land Art's demand for a sensitive consciousness regarding the conditions of production, presentation and dissemination of art, they also gave expression to the technological, social and political conditions of the time.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

The exhibition catalogue is published by Prestel; with essays by Tom Holert, Philipp Kaiser, Miwon Kwon, Julienne Lorz, Jane McFadden, Julian Myers and Emily Eliza Scott; 263 pages, ISBN 978-3-7913-5194-0, in English; bookstore price 53.20 €.

Carlos Ginzburg Tierra (Land), July 1971, Eight gelatin-silver prints, 24 • 18 cm each, Courtesy of the artist and Henrique Faria Fine Art, New York.

Jan Dibbets, A Trace in the Wood in the Form of an Angle of 30° – Crossing the Path, 1969, Gelatin-silver print, 165 x 113 cm), Collection of Dr. R. & H. Matthys,

John Baldessari, California Map Project Part II: State Capital, 1969, Archival inkjet print mounted on Dibond, 24.4 x 20.32 cm, Collection of Lawrence Weiner, New York.

Robert Kinmont, 8 Natural Handstands,  1969/2009, nine silver gelatin prints, 21.5 x 21.5 cm, Image courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York.

Hrein Fridfinsson, House Project, 1974, Sixteen color photographs and two texts, Photographs: 20 × 29 cm each; texts: 29.5 × 21 cm each, Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Alice Aycock, Clay #2, 1971/2012, 1,500 pounds of clay mixed with water in wood frame, Each: 121.92 x 121.92 x 15.24 cm, Courtesy of the artist.

Richard Long, A Line the Length of a Straight Walk from the Bottom to the Top of Silbury Hill, 1970, Natural white china clay, Installation view, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1971, Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York, © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London.

Group “i,” E. Jari, 1966, Approximately 12 tons gravel (4 truckloads), conveyor belt, Collection of Group “i,” Photo: Group “i.”