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MOCA Jacksonville, ReFocus on the 70s: Earthworks Art

As part of MOCAJacksonville's review and survey series of shows outlining developments in Contemporary Art from the 60s to the present day: ReFocus 1970s is currently on display at the downtown digs of the Museum. Part of the show revolves around the works of Cristo and the other Earthworks artists. Join us below the fold for the curator's notes straight from the Museum!

Published June 23, 2012 in Weekend Edition      1 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970)

Also known as “land art,” Earthworks, an art movement that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, posited a new, integral relationship between landscape and the work of art. In response to the perceived artificiality and commercialization of art in the late 1960s, proponents of land art rejected the museum or gallery as the setting of artistic activity and developed monumental landscape projects that were beyond the reach of traditional transportable sculpture and the commercial art market.

Created in nature, using natural materials such as soil, rock (bed rock, boulders, stones), organic media (logs, branches, leaves), and water with introduced materials such as concrete, metal, asphalt, or mineral pigments. Rather than placing sculptures in the landscape, the landscape itself became the means of creation. One of the best known examples of earthworks is Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), for which Smithson arranged rock, earth and algae so as to form a 1,500-foot spiral-shape jetty protruding into Great Salt Lake in northern Utah. How much of the work, if any, is visible is dependent on the fluctuating water levels. Since its creation, the work has been completely covered, and then uncovered again, by water. As Earthworks frequently exist in the open, located well away from civilization, they are left to change and subject to erosion. Many of the first works, created in the deserts of Nevada, New Mexico, Utah or Arizona were short-lived in nature and now only exist as video recordings or photographic documents. Although the Spiral Jetty still exists, like many Earthworks, it is represented in the museum context through photographic documentation.

Gordon Matta-Clark
The early 1970s also saw the rise of Process Art— an art movement that emphasized the process of the formation of art: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, patterning, and the initiation of actions and proceedings rather than integral and completed works of art. Gordon Matta-Clark, one of the best known artists associated with this movement, is famous for his "building cutsԗa series of works in abandoned buildings in which he variously removed sections of floors, ceilings, and walls. Like the Earthworks artists, Matta-Clark also relied on photographic documentation of his architectural interventions, many of which are displayed in this section of the exhibition.

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June 28, 2012, 03:07:41 PM
I loved this series.  What appealed to me is that its the most natural form of art.  How brilliant to create something so great by working with nature and only distorting it with the materials provided by it.  Looking at the Earthworks series forces one to see beauty in the world that's significantly underrated. 

I'd love to see more of this sort of thing because it is easy to appreciate.  I love all forms of art, and I always take advantage of MOCA during art walk, but although I can admire the pieces, I fail to understand how some are created or what certain art terms mean.  I think that's what people often get caught up in when trying to appreciate a piece.  But Earthworks are different, it's a clear portrayal of beauty dissected from the Earth.

Does anyone else find these pieces easier to admirer than others, or feel the opposite?  What exactly do you look for in art to find it's appeal?
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