Land art and site specific sculpture - land art uses the environment and its scale as its material. Concrete art is expressed in material itself with which the artist introduces her non-representational objective. Public art can be viewed and accessed by observers.
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Land Art in the urban environment

a park as an urban land art project in Kajaani, Finland

When I received my second commission in 1969 – the first was to make a large bronze sculpture, “discoid form 1”, a year earlier – it was proposed that I make another monumental bronze sculpture in an interior garden. During my first meeting with the architect, he said that, if I wished, I could also make proposal for the surrounding garden. So, instead of making a sculpture and create fitting surroundings for it, I found that I wanted something more than that. The environment itself could have qualities which set it apart from any conventional garden. That same year, in art school, I had read the book “A Sculptor's World”, which had just been published, by Isamu Noguchi. Impressed by his projects involving entire environments, I abandoned the thought of making a sculpture in a garden designed to complement it. I would take on the whole garden. The Dutch poet Jan Eijkelboom, then the Public Relations Officer for the Municipality of Dordrecht, where my project was nearing completion, wrote a press release in which he called this type of art “terreinplastiek”, which translated means terrain-, field- or area sculpture. At that time I called my approach to sculpture “environmental sculpture” and put it in my letterhead and on my calling cards.

Saenredam Project - Land Art of Lucien den Arend - his site specific sculpture ordered by the city of Barendrecht

50X80m reservoir and 30X30m island with osier - 1982|1985/∞ - photo©Jos Wesdijk

In my own definition I described Land Art as: “by reason, site specific - it is made on location, from the materials one finds on that location. But, since there are no laws regulating art, using any exotic element or material cannot be outlawed. Robert Smithson, with his Asphalt Rundown, did just that.” Only during the last years I’ve started to realize that it may be more appropriate to describe my environmental sculptural projects in urban area as “urban land art”. I use materials which are native to a certain area and rearrange them to create an environment which will distinguish itself from its surroundings. This is much the same as land art in the art-historic sense, but the difference is that the available materials are also those from which the urban area has been built. My original term environmental sculpture still covers that, but it can also be applied to land art - as they are synonyms. Because I often incorporate aspects and materials of the original land (before the urban transformations has taken over), I use the term urban land art, opposed to urban environmental art, which for me leaves too much room for interpretation – especially since the term environmental has also been adopted to describe art which concerns itself ecological issues. Because it is often too late to save some original natural aspects of a landscape and have them framed by the new urban- or suburban fabric which replaced the natural situation – I reintroduce them.

There are various forms which can be categorized as urban land art. And also works which fall under this name will evolve and result in unexpected examples. There is also a lot of misinterpretation going on; the fact that many of Andy Goldsworthy’s works are categorized as land art does not automatically mean that applying autumn leaves to a traffic light is urban land art.

Don't the words "land" and "urban" contradict each other?


  • my definitions of terminology around land art

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