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Elemental Sculpture Theory and Practice, Todor Todorov, Cambridge Scolars Publishing
Authors Using the Potential of the Natural Elements
...73 Regrettably, from that moment he had little time left before the end of his days, but he managed to create several works, one of which is emblematic for Land Art. This is the monumental embrace between earth and water, called Spiral Jetty (reference: Appendix l, p. 137), extending into the Great Salt Lake in Utah in 1970. The anti-clockwise wound spiral is 457 metres long and 4.57 metres wide. In its construction Robert Smithson, and this is typical of Land Art, used available materials to show the earth and its physical manifestation, thus personifying the physical place. The materials here are black basalt rocks, large salt crystals and earth. These are the materials and the physical manifestation of the concept of Earth in this place. This work is in every sense of the word a sculpture-place and a milestone, marking the still vague and fumblingly discovered road for bringing sculptors and their sculpture closer to nature and (in individual works such as this) their ﬁnal merger into one whole. Subsequently it inspired many artists with its explicitness, simplicity and fully realized contact with nature.
Lucien den Arend
Aﬂer many years of working with metal on a large scale, Lucien den
Arend rediscovered two of the natural elements as a source of inspiration
and working material. These are earth and water. Beginning to work in
this direction, professionally he has long been outdoors, having left
the studio, and the scale of the exterior is no problem for him. All
that is needed is a last step towards a merger with nature, which he
makes, though he continues to work in an urban enviromnent.
His land art works, some of which also include water as an element in the overall conception, are inﬂuenced by the peculiarities of the Dutch landscape — a ﬂat country, in which: “God created Water, but the Dutch created Earth”, as the Dutch like to say. His works are a kind of art- projection of these relationships between the locals and nature (reference: Appendix 1, p. 131 -Island X-ing).
Even from an airplane we can distinguish the forms of nature from a manmade form without thinking — this is the difference between the straight line, typical of human intervention, and the curved line into which nature is shaped as structure, at least in the scale we inhabit. At a crystal and cellular level, things look completely different. If we look through a microscope or look at and compare photos of crystals and living organisms, we will see that inanimate nature contains many straight lines which, in turn, distinguish it from living nature at the cellular level, with its form of curves and planes.
Lucien den Arend, like Michael Heizer, is among the authors who impose a “human” geometrical structure when making sculpture in the natural environment. To compare — we have the differentiated contextual approach of Isamu Noguchi seen earlier, which mainly takes into account the characteristics of the concrete place and the purpose of the project, and less a preliminary attitude or preference. This raises a new question in sculpture: should an artist be looking only inside himself or should he rise to the realities of the speciﬁc context? It is our firm conviction that these two possible types of reaction within the scope of one work are not mutually exclusive and oﬁen lead to considerable success.
As noted in the previous chapters, the scale in sculpture, starting ﬁom the human scale, develops over time and passes through different phases, like the scale of an individual building, of a big park, of a concrete city, before reaching the scale of the geo-elements - valley, river, hill, and mountain. James Turrell and Charles Ross make yet another step in this direction by linking Earth and the Universe through their works or, more precisely, they express and make visible this objectively existing link. This important step is made more in the mind than physically, because the Earth has always been part of the Universe, but, as Turrell notes, mankind decided that we are part of Space only after man stepped on the Moon. Besides being art, the works and Star Axis of James Turrell and Charles Ross cure us of om earthly provincialism by throwing in the cosmic aspect, helping us to fathom the elementary truth that we do not enter Space - we have always been there, i.e. here, and this here has always been part of the Whole.
Working on the scale of geo-elements and exclusively using the straight line of human geometry as a structuring element, Turrell and Ross link some of these basic lines in their compositions both with some relatively static points in the starry sky, like the heavenly poles, and with characteristic visible positions of the Sun: the vemal and autumnal equinox, the summer and winter solstice. The design approach is the same as in making a sculpture for a speciﬁc urban environment — structural analysis of the existing network of lines, selection of the more important ones and “weaving” them into the composition, or “weaving” the author’s intentions into this existing linear structure. The difference here is that the lines, chosen as basis by these authors, start from Earth and continue in Space, and this reﬂects on the thoughts and emotions of the viewer.
These works are on an Egyptian or pre-Columbian scale, but they are not tombs, sanctuaries or other cultic buildings. Besides being art that Authors Using the Potential of the Natural Elements 75 concerns delight in its pure form, they are also instruments for expanding the human scale and view of life to the dimensions of Space.
Settling beneath the open sky, outside museums and galleries, sculpture
comes into contact with yet another natural element - ﬁre. For the time
being, that interaction comes less from its immediate manifestations
as buming ﬂame or ﬁre than with ﬁre as light — sunlight, direct or reﬂected
by the planets, and the light of other stars.
Originating from sculpture-space, seen mostly in galleries and museums, sculpture-place inhabits mainly the exterior, to whose scale it has already adapted. A progress, which demands to be taken into account by the artists working in this direction, has led to a culmination - the use of the volcano crater as an instrument for becoming aware of the scale of the Universe and our belonging to it. This bridge, connecting people with the distant galaxies and with all that we call Space, involves them, causing them to feel part of the whole to which they actually belong. “The sky is actually part of our neighbourhood and part of our visual sense of territory, which is wonderful. It was odd to me that we had to go to the moon, a lesser satellite, and then declare: ‘Now we’re in space’. I mean we’re in space now,” James Turrell says in an interview.
As in many other arts, there are many conjectures about the beginning of Land Art — Earth Work and therefore also many disputes. Most critics see its origin in the exhibition Earthworks, staged in 1968 in the Dwan gallery in New York, where several artists piled up heaps of earth. Here earth was used, but within the scope of a gallery, i.e. taken out of the context of the exterior as a place of the event and placed in the artiﬁcial conditions of the gallery. The curator of this exhibition was Robert Smithson, who soon aﬂerwards left the gallery, bought his own land and started his own Land Art project Spiral Jetty. ln fact, in its natural context earth appeared for the ﬁrst time as a material for creating a work in the college yard. This is generally considered as the beginning of Land Art, in the sense of using earth outside galleries - on its own territory.
Starting from the scale of a yard, the yard of Sladmore College, the sculpture-place of Land Art expanded in time to become commensurate with ever larger natural structures. This brings us to the culmination: the work of James Turrell and, speciﬁcally his project Roden Crater in the Grand Canyon, Arizona (reference: Appendix 1, pp. 138, 140). In his...