Posts Tagged ‘Land Art’

REVIEWED BY MELISSA S. RAGAIN

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In 2000, the German artist Reinhard Reitzenstein suspended a tree from a pair of abandoned hydroelectric towers in La Gabelle Park in Quebec. Hung upside down, the 55-foot spruce tree contrasts tragicomically with the immense structures beside it, as though they had seized the tree and subjected it to this humiliating inversion. This arresting image flips (quite literally) our expectations of the landscape, even a human-altered landscape like the escarpment of a hydroelectric dam, and dramatizes the clear-cutting that makes such sublime industrial monuments possible. Reitzenstein relies on those expectations in order to subvert them. The cultural baggage of landscape, both pictures of the landscape and the land’s design as an aesthetic object, is the ground against which a work like Transformer appears. The urgency of climate change and mass extinction has made it necessary for anyone who works with natural materials or images to rethink the historical conventions that govern our perceptions of the natural world.

I was choosing a new survey text for my course Contemporary Art and Ecology when I was commissioned to review Mark Cheetham’s new book, Landscape into Eco Art. To judge by the title and the array of evocative illustrations, it looked like a viable candidate to replace my go-to anthology, Jeffrey Kastner’s Nature (The MIT Press, 2012). Though Kastner’s book offers an excellent selection of short primary documents perfect for an undergraduate seminar, it lacks what many art history textbooks offer: the lure of chronology, the analysis of individual artworks, and an authoritative narrative to help navigate the last 50 years of ecological art making. And yet, as I thumbed through Cheetham’s Landscape into Eco Art, I began to realize that it was not a survey text. Neither was it the kind of fine-grained history of a single object or movement we have come to expect in contemporary art history. Other texts in the genre take the standard contemporary art historical model of diving deep into a subject only to pop back out of it again with a new perspective on the long history of contemporary practices. For instance, James Nisbet’s Ecologies, Environments, and Energy Systems in Art of the 1960s and 1970s (The MIT Press, 2014) tells a history of land art and systems thinking by tethering it to a lengthy analysis of Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field (1977). Similarly, Suzaan Boettger’s Earthworks: Art and the Landscape of the Sixties (University of California Press, 2003) takes a wide-angle lens to land art in a chronological survey of the era’s greatest moments to shed light on the complex network of artists, gallerists, and collectors who motivated land art’s monumental minimalism.

Instead, Landscape into Eco Art might be more readily compared to work in environmental aesthetics, a subfield of (more…)

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The things our art director, Chris McGee, hated to leave out of the current issue of LAM.

Photo by Erik Petersen, © 2016 Tippet Rise

From “The Major Scale” by Jennifer Reut in the June 2018 issue, about Oehme, van Sweden’s singular Tippet Rise in Montana.

“Tippet Rise.”

–CHRIS MCGEE, LAM ART DIRECTOR

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A basin and spillway near Las Vegas. Image courtesy of the Center for Land Use Interpretation Photo Archive.

On the outskirts of the parched city of Las Vegas are dozens of basins dug into the earth, connected to hundreds of miles of arterial concrete channels that weave through the city to Lake Mead, some 30 miles to the east. Begun in the mid-1980s, this $2 billion land works infrastructure project is now 80 percent complete. The full plan calls for 121 basins and 800 miles of channel.

What’s the purpose of all this megascaled trench work? Las Vegas, plopped arbitrarily in the Mojave Desert with no permanent source of surface water and annual average rainfall of four inches, is prone to flash floods. These basins, spillways, and channels collect rainwater and whisk it away just every so often.

This paradox is the subject of Desert Ramparts: Defending Las Vegas from the Flood, at the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Los Angeles. Up through mid-September, its eerily steady gaze (more…)

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The artist and landscape designer Patricia Johanson sees her ecologically driven, site-specific artworks as a way to weave together two disciplines that seemed to have parted ways a long time ago: science and art. She imagines them to be “parallel explorations” that share the same goal (exploring and interpreting the world), gone about in different ways. “In a way, we’re like inchworms,” she says in an interview from 2010. “We’re out on a twig, feeling around, testing the air. Where do we go from here? What can we learn? And you begin to look at these things, and you begin to discover the world. I think that’s what scientists do, and I think that’s what artists do.”

Johanson grants herself the opportunity to try it both ways. Her Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility in Petaluma, California, clocks in to perform all the progressive landscape-as-infrastructure functions asked of it. It’s a sewage treatment plant, and a park with three miles of trails whose wetlands help filter and clean Petaluma’s water. It’s also a wetland wildlife habitat where visitors set up easels and sketch the landscape, part of which playfully resembles a mouse (with two beady little eyes that are islands in a pond) from above.

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

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In Owens Lake, a land art installation draws on 100-year-old history while providing critical habitat.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

When NUVIS Landscape Architecture was hired to assist the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) with its dust mitigation effort at Owens Lake (see “Dust to Bust,” LAM, October 2012), Perry Cardoza, ASLA, was given a list of objectives. Foremost, any design needed to tamp down the dust that had become a public health hazard, but it also would have to meet very specific habitat goals and help the department meet its water-use reduction targets. (LADWP has used up to 95,000 acre-feet of water annually for dust mitigation.) What was not on the list was any mention of land art.

“In everyone’s mind, this was going to be a hiking trail with a parking lot,” says Cardoza, an executive vice president at NUVIS. “We would have gravel and wetlands and some salt grass, and [we] would call it a day.” The project evolved, however, and the completed landscape, which opened to the public in April 2016 and won an Award of Excellence from the ASLA Southern California Chapter the same year, falls right into the land art tradition, even as it fulfills its mandate as an ecological booster.

Located on a tiny parcel—at 700 acres, the parcel is still just 1 percent of the lake’s total area—near the lake’s northeast boundary, the design includes a monument-like shade structure and a series of plazas and interpretive kiosks that are connected by four miles of walking paths. For Cardoza, what pushes the work into the realm of land art are its 14 (more…)

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