Until 3 Sep 12
Hans Haacke, Grass Grows, 1967/69
los angeles. True to its subject matter, an exhibition of land art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (Moca), is moving at glacial speeds towards its opening.
The exhibition “Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974” was delayed for a month as the museum continued to raise funds, and director Jeffrey Deitch organised a two-week music and arts festival—“Transmission LA: AV Club”, curated by Mike D of the Beastie Boys and funded by Mercedes Benz—to take its place at The Geffen Contemporary in April.
“Ends of the Earth”, meanwhile, received some last-minute funding from a member of Moca’s board, the artist Barbara Kruger, who is creating a new vinyl work to sell to help fund the $1m exhibition.
The question of how to organise a museum exhibition about land art, a movement that by its definition exists outside the museum, is something that the curators have wrestled with from the beginning.
“We acknowledge that you can’t represent the large art in the museum, though you can document it,” says Philipp Kaiser, the outgoing senior curator at Moca, who is taking over as director of the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, at the end of 2012.
He co-organised this land art show with Miwon Kwon, a professor of art history at UCLA. But, rather than just display photos of some of the best-known works of land art, such as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, 1970, the exhibition focuses on the roots of land art and its connection to other movements of the 1960s and 70s.
“Reading land art as just a sculpture practice is wrong. Art that deals with the land starts with Fluxus, it’s more on a conceptual level,” Kaiser says.
“It’s about the idea and the process—process art, post minimalism, performance art—Judy Chicago goes into the desert and does performances with fireworks.” One of the aims of the exhibition is to challenge the “many myths” about land art, such as the idea that it is exclusively an American movement, borne out of the inspirational vastness of “Big Sky” country in the western US.
The research for the show uncovered some surprising connections to artists working in eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Kaiser points to an example in Israel after the Six Day War in 1967, when Micha Ullman worked with locals to symbolically exchange soil between an Israeli kibbutz and an Arab village, or in Ljubljana, where Walter De Maria travelled in 1969 to work with the OHO group of conceptual artists.
“It was kind of a zeitgeist, it had much to do with a post-war situation,” Kaiser says of the land art movement.
Some of the 80 artists represented in the show have recreated early works, many of which were originally made on-site for one-off exhibitions.
These include Robert Morris’s piles of earth and Alice Aycock’s square of cracked clay that has dried in the frame.
One most conspicuous work, however, is notable for its absence: Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, which is part of Moca’s collection.
The artist did not want documentation of his 1,500-foot long, 50-foot-deep trenches dug into the Mormon Mesa, Nevada, to be included in the show, yet it appears in the programming: visitors will be given instructions on how to travel to see it in person. n Helen Stoilas
Categories: Thematic Contemporary (1970-present) Post-War (1945-70)
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) at the Geffen Co
152 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles 90012, USA
+1 213 626 6222
Supplied by The Art Newspaper