We all played with building blocks as children, but Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone is still at it at the age of 51. His latest work, "Seven Magic Mountains" is a series of seven stacked rock formations—bright and welcoming pops of neon in a dusty, unforgiving landscape. Installed in the Nevada desert, just south of Las Vegas, the work offers both a commentary on nature versus the city, and a great homage to the history of Land Art in the West, made famous by such artists as Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson, and Nancy Holt in the late 1960s and '70s.
Using naturally-occurring hoodoos (skinny rock spires found in arid basins) as inspiration, the installation brings Land Art, a term which traditionally refers to art made literally from the earth, into the 21st century. The vibrant installation is not only eye-catching, but it's also a landmark moment for work of this kind: It's been over 40 years since a major land-based work has been completed in this area.
It took a five-year process to bring "Seven Magic Mountains" to completion. Spearheaded by Reno's Nevada Museum of Art and New York-based public-art nonprofit Art Production Fund, the hope is that this is the first of many public commissions.
In a poem-like artist statement, Rondinone writes, "'Seven Magic Mountains' elicits continuities and solidarities between human and nature, artificial and natural, then and now. What centers this amalgam of contradictions," he continues, "is the spiritual aspiration; one that bruises, elevates and transcends." Concluding on this abstract note, the artist leaves us to meditate on the opposition of his natural romanticism and psychedelic existentialism.
Planning a visit to "Seven Magic Mountains?" Add these other earthworks to your itinerary!
"Sun Tunnels" (1973-76) by Nancy Holt: This large-scale work in Lucin, Utah consists of four concrete tunnels which frame the sun as it passes the horizon on the solstices. umfa.utah.edu
"Spiral Jetty" (1970) by Robert Smithson: This 1,500-foot coil of 6,000 tons of black basalt rock and earth is often considered the first, most major Land Art work. It's located at Rozel Point on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. diaart.org
"The Lightning Field" (1977) by Walter De Maria: An installation of steel poles positioned in a grid pattern, this work in the remote New Mexico desert is noted as one of the most important in the movement. diaart.org
"Double Negative" (1969-70) by Michael Heizer: The two straight trenches that make up this work displaced 240,000 tons of desert sandstone in Nevada's Mormon Mesa, where it's situated—a must-see in the Land art canon. moca.org
"Seven Magic Mountains" will be on view until 2018. For more information on "Seven Magic Mountains," see nevadaart.org. You can also follow the museum on Snapchat @nevadaart!