Dates: 1960-1980

Origin: International

Key Artists: Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim

Also known as ‘Earthworks’. It uses natural materials such as earth, rocks, and soil in the construction of (usually very large) works of art. It emerged in the 1960s. Although it has been considered as a reaction against the industrially controlled designs of minimal art, Land art relates quite closely to it in terms of formal simplicity, and was, more importantly, a reaction against the limitations imposed on art objects by their exhibition in galleries. In this respect, the scale of much Land art constituted a rejection of a perceived commodification of art; Spiral Jetty (1970) by Robert Smithson and Mile Long Drawing (1971) by Walter De Maria (1935– ) were impossible to exhibit as conventional art objects. Smithson’s work was a (now submerged) rock road which stretched 460 m (1,500 ft) into the Great Salt Lake, Utah; De Maria’s was a pair of parallel white lines traced in the Nevada desert. Their indivisibility from the natural environment attempted to create a purer form of encounter with art than that offered by conventional exhibition spaces. Smithson wrote that galleries caused art to become ‘neutralised, ineffective, abstracted, safe and politically lobotomised’(‘Cultural Confinement’, Artforum, Oct. 1972).

Parfitt, Oliver. “land art.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Robert Smithson

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