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Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art

Topic:

Critically analyse the work of 4 major artists working loosely in the field of

sculpture whose works are defined by a focus on the environment, and

analyse the influences underpinning their work.

Modern art set the foundations for the vast array of art works presented

today. One of the most notable changes is the advent of Environmental

artworks, including site-specific art, and works that have an environmental

component. While there has been a distinct visual change between

Environmental art works and traditional art forms, it is the changes which

underpin the development of these works that show the most remarkable

shift.

1968 is viewed as the birth year of Environmental art, not because it

marked the first environmental art work (which could debatably date back

to prehistoric times), but because several key Environmental art

exhibitions were held in this year1. This was around the same time as

other conceptual movements were beginning to gain prominence. Hal

Foster, an art theorist, described this change as a shift from a vertical

conception of art, where value is decided through repetition of style and

technique, to a horizontal conception, where art is actively involved in the

1 Tufnell, Ben. Land art. New York: Tate, Abrams, 2006.p. 13

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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culture of a theme or discourse2. He noted how this has positioned art in a

more political and sociological stance: ‘many artists and critics treat

conditions like desire or disease ... as sites for art’3, and from this point art

was able to make a departure from, ironically, the traditional art object.

This departure has come to be described as positioning art in an

‘expanded field’; a term coined by Rosalind Krauss4. Krauss gives a non-

historically driven perspective of the development of environmental art.

She postulates that sculpture became abstracted from its relationship with

the idea of the monument in the 19th century, and was no longer

restricted to a static position on a plinth5. By the 1950’s sculpture also

began to lose its identity, as Krauss describes ‘modernist sculpture

appeared as a kind of black hole in the space of consciousness ...a kind of

‘categorical no-mans-land’ 6. Sculpture began to be defined in terms of a

combination of exclusions that Krauss defines as a ‘Logically Expanded

Field’7, Essentially an object that is both ‘not landscape’ and ‘not

architecture’ = sculpture. However, this logic term could be inverted to

encompass the object that is both landscape and architecture leaving

artists with an ‘expanded field’ of sculpture to work with, which is no

longer defined by medium8.

2 Foster, Hal. The return of the real: the avant-garde at the end of the century. Mass:
Cambridge, 1996. p.184
3 Hopkins, David. After modern art 1945-2000. Oxford, 2000. P.178
4 Krauss, Rosalind. “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” October 8 (Spring 1979): p.31-44.

5 ibid.
6 ibid.
7 ibid.
8 ibid.

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Foster and Krauss both describe changes in the theoretical structure of art

occurring during Modernism that allowed art to move in a vastly different

direction. The progression and expansion of Environmental art

demonstrates how these theories and philosophies have been built upon

and extended. However while Foster and Krauss both look at the changes

from a non-linear and non-historical perspective the styles and concepts

theoretically underpinning many Environmental Artworks, often draw from

linear and historical Modernist philosophies. Through looking at a specific

selection of artworks representing a variety of countries, both gallery

based and site specific, from a cross section of dates, the continuing

influence of Modernist philosophies can be shown in these heterogeneous

art forms.

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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GRASS GROWS 1969 - HANS HAACKE

Grass Grows, produced in 1969 is a West-German art piece that built

upon an earlier work from 1966. While 1970 marked Hans Haacke’s move

into the more widely-known politically motivated, often controversial art

works9, previously much of his work surrounded the concepts of organic

growth and change10. His gallery based installations focused on organic

life, involving living natural materials like plants and animals. Grass Grows

involved allowing grass seeds to germinate and grow from a small mound

of soil in the exhibition venue11. These works commented on the manner in

9 Hans Haacke, Hans Haacke, unfinished business (New York ;Cambridge Mass.: New Museum of
Contemporary Art ;MIT Press, 1986). p.7
10 Stangos, Nikos. Concepts of modern art : from fauvism to postmodernism. 3rd ed. New York N.Y.:
Thames and Hudson, 1994.p.42
11 Stangos, Nikos. Concepts of modern art : from fauvism to postmodernism. 3rd ed. New York N.Y.:
Thames and Hudson, 1994.p.42

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which they interacted with their surrounding environment, as Haacke

stated12

"[it is to]...make something which experiences, reacts to its environment,

changes, is non-stable ... make something sensitive to light and

temperature changes, that is subject to air currents and depends, in its

functioning, on the forces of gravity...articulate something natural".

These works were the immediate predecessors to later works which

were decidedly environmentalist in direction like Monument to Beach

Pollution of 1970. They indicated a turning point in Haacke’s practice13, as

described in Kastner and Wallis14,

The phenomenon of organic growth as an essential part of an ecosystem is an

early example of issues that would later be explored in more fully developed

ecological artworks.

While Haacke later moved away from environmental works to more

political based art, his work has remained strongly conceptual and in

contrast to many artist who moved their works out of the gallery space,

Haacke’s works shows environmental sculptures moving into the gallery.

Grass Grows consists of a small, semi-conical mound on which a short, yet

spiky grass has been seeded. The mound itself is unassuming and if

encountered outside would be largely unremarkable (with exception,

perhaps, of its formal symmetry), however in the gallery space the mound

12 Kastner, Jeffrey. Land and environmental art. London: Phaidon Press, 2005. P.32
13 Stangos, Nikos. loc. cit. Concepts of modern art : from fauvism to postmodernism. 3rd ed. New York
N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, 1994.p.42
14 Kastner, Jeffrey. op. cit. Land and environmental art. London: Phaidon Press, 2005 .p138

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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gains presence. Similar to Warhol’s use of banal objects like Brillo boxes15,

context forces the viewer to consider the mound and what it means. While

the work is a gallery-based art object it is also a living, growing life-form.

In its simplicity, Grass Grows eloquently sums up the artists concepts and

idea surrounding life, growth and death, combined with time.

Conceptually, Haacke’s works used nonverbal language to convey or

gather information to broach complex non-visual issues16. In essence he

has come to regard art as ‘linked to "mythical time", a concept that

separated art from real life events’17 and strived to produce art which

existed and developed in ‘real-time’. Grass Grows focused on physical and

biological processes of change, renewal, and decay18. Artistically it could

also be argued that Haacke was reacting against some of the core tenets

of Modernism; that through technology and politics the Bourgeois religion

of art and culture would be brought to an end19.

The developments of various styles during Modernism set precedent for

artworks like Grass Grows. The process of pairing-down or reducing the

elements of an artwork, in an attempt to access a more fundamental

language and can be seen in various Modernist artworks, for example the

works of De Stijl artists like Piet Mondrian, who began reducing the

15 Catherine Speck, “'Mechanical Ballets: light, motion and theatre' Kinetic Art, op art and happenings”
(Lecture, University of Adelaide, October 6, 2009).
16 Stangos, Nikos. Concepts of modern art : from fauvism to postmodernism. 3rd ed. New
York N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, 1994. P.265
17 Krug, Don, and Jennifer Siegenthaler. “Changing Views About Art and the Earth.”
Greenmuseum.org, 2006. http://greenmuseum.org/c/aen/Earth/Changing/artist.php.

18 ibid http://greenmuseum.org/c/aen/Earth/Changing/artist.php

19 Stangos, Nikos. op. cit. p.42 Concepts of modern art : from fauvism to postmodernism. 3rd
ed. New York N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, 1994. P.42

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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landscape to its most basic formal qualities ending with compositions that

consisted of bold black lines, white backgrounds and primary colours20.

While visually Grass Grows differs drastically from the Neo-plastic works of

Mondrian, it has still been reduced to its most basic elements in order to

passively communicate a fundamental concept of life, (in a similar manner

to Mondrian communicating a theosophical universal truth) that there

were ‘enduring qualities which lay behind the accidental or surface

appearance of things’21. Thus Minimalism is a strong component of this

work even though the industrial materials typical of Minimalist works are

not used22. Embodied in this work is the Minimalist belief that a work of art

should be completely conceived by the mind before its execution23, or

concept before production.

In this work we can also see manifestations of Haacke’s rejection of some

of the core elements that Modernists embraced in technology and a

distinctive reaction against the ferocity and speed of Futurism. While

machines would likely have been employed to make this work a reality,

there is no manmade materials present and the process of grass growing

is undeniably passive and slow. Interestingly, when viewing this work,

early abstractionist principals could be conceptually applied. If the blades

of grass are not viewed as individual, but symbolic of the idea of a ‘blade

of grass’, Grass Grows could be critiqued visually as both a Cubist work,

20 Speck, Catherine. “Utopias: Constructivism, Suprematism and the Bauhaus.” Lecture,


University
21 of Adelaide,
Meecham, Augustart
Pam. Modern 31,: a2009.
critical introduction. 2nd ed. London ;New York: Routledge,
2005. P.55
22 Meecham, Pam. Modern art : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. London ;New York: Routledge,
2005.p.279
23 Stangos, Nikos. Concepts of modern art : from fauvism to postmodernism. 3rd ed. New
York N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, 1994. P.245

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with its representation from multiple perspectives and Futurist, as it

represents them from different points in the passage of time.

LIGHTNING FIELD 1977 - WALTER DE MARIA

Lightning Field of 1977 is one of Walter De Maria’s best known works,

and he is one of the first noted identities of Environmental art. His earliest

environmental pieces were Mile Long Drawing and Cross in 196824, the

same year noted as the birth year of Environmental art as a genre due to

several pivotal exhibitions that included Earthworks in New York25, in which

De Maria was involved26. His sculpture Lightening Field comprises of 400

24 Tufnell, Ben. Land art. London ;New York: Tate, 2006. P.57
25 Tufnell, Ben. ibid p.12Land art. London ;New York: Tate, 2006. p.12
26 Kastner, Jeffrey. Land and environmental art. London: Phaidon Press, 2005.p.289

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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pointed stainless steel rods, spread 220 feet apart. As lightening strikes,

the rods ignite creating a vast net of visible electric charges27, which are

viewable from a small log cabin, located on site, a safe distance away28.

This work combines a number of different elements that imposed strict

criteria for the works creation. It took 5 years for a suitable site to be

found with the correct combination of isolated open space and

atmospheric conditions29. Contrary to other Environmental Artworks,

where the landscape plays an integral part as the site for the artwork to

be placed, De Maria’s art work is dependent on its site. As De Maria

described ‘The land is not the setting for the work but a part of the

work’30. At the core of the sculpture are the forces of nature, which are

literally required to perform and complete the work31. This relationship

places the artwork at the mercy of nature, as there are only approximately

60 days per year when thunder and lightning activity can potentially be

viewed from the lightening field, thus the viewer is not guaranteed to see

the full extent of the artwork32.

In Lightning Field the long, thin polls jut out of the earth over a vast

distance and are only properly visible during dawn and dusk when the

light hits the polls. Placed in a grid pattern at regular intervals, there is a

27 Kastner, Jeffrey. ibid Land and environmental art. London: Phaidon Press, 2005.
28 Hopkins, David. After modern art 1945-2000. Oxford, 2000. P.175
29 Kastner, Jeffrey. Land and environmental art. London: Phaidon Press, 2005.p232
30 Kastner, Jeffrey. ibid Land and environmental art. London: Phaidon Press, 2005.p232
31 Hopkins, David. After modern art 1945-2000. Oxford, 2000. P. 176
32 Kastner, Jeffrey. op. cit p.233Land and environmental art. London: Phaidon Press, 2005. P
233

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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man-made formality to them that contrasts sharply with the low lying

scrub of the surrounding flat land and the strength of nature in the

lightening hit. The emotive quality of the poles alone is cold and

impersonal but become awe-inspiring and sublime when hit by lightning.

The impression is one of symbiosis functioning between art and nature

leaving the artist on the sidelines.

De Maria has been associated with Conceptualism, Minimalism, Land art

and Installation since the 1960’s33; however Lightning Field resonates with

the influences of the Dadaist’s. The integral, yet unpredictable part nature

plays in ‘completing’ this work essentially usurps its function as an

ongoing, aesthetic, static art piece for the viewer to enjoy at leisure. This

has similarities in the Dadaist intent to produce art that moves against the

capitalist climate of bourgeoisie demand for artworks34. Essentially both

types of work have potential for opposition of their audiences’ enjoyment.

Visually Lightning Field bears similarity to the Minimalist industrial

materials35, even spaced repetition and geometric placement. While this

may have a practicality given certain metals are more conductive than

others, it invites the viewer to consider universal themes of man in

collaboration with nature.

Lightning Field strikes a theoretical similarity with Kinetic Art and artists

like Yves Tinguely. While there are no moving mechanical parts in

33 Kastner, Jeffrey. ibid Land and environmental art. London: Phaidon Press, 2005.p.289
34 Stangos, Nikos. Concepts of modern art : from fauvism to postmodernism. 3rd ed. New
York N.Y.: Thames and Hudson, 1994. P. 113
35 Meecham, Pam. Modern art : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. London ;New York: Routledge,
2005. P.279

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Lightning Field, it requires an instigator other than the artist to complete

the process. Tinguely’s Metamatics were constructed to produce an

artwork by intervention of the potential viewer, where De Maria’s

Lightning Field functions only with the intervention of certain atmospheric

conditions. Both leave the artist in the position of the audience. The

development of this re-contextualisation of the role of the artist, during

Modernisms revitalisation of art into a conceptual field, allowed artworks

where the artist was not apparent as the producer, to exist in today’s art

world.

Lightning Field is a diverse artwork, showing many different influences,

which raises questions about the functionality of an artwork when it is not

‘complete’, the juxtaposition of manmade materials and natural events

and the conceptual implications of the role of the artist.

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SUMACH LEAVES LAID AROUND A HOLE 1998 - ANDY GOLDSWORTHY

Andy Goldsworthy’s installations using natural materials demonstrate his

working practices of placement and ephemerality. Goldsworthy began to

produce Environmental artworks in the 1970’s while he was studying,

working out of the studios doing exploratory works using natural

materials36. The British avant-garde was, at the time, better known outside

Britain and as a result Goldsworthy drew his inspiration from the likes of

Yves Klein, Robert Smithson's’ Spiral Jetty from 1970 and by Joseph Beuys

Bog Action of 1971 and later Richard Long’s artworks37.

36 Tufnell, Ben. Land art. London ;New York: Tate, 2006. p.81
37 Goldsworthy, Andy. Hand to earth : Andy Goldsworthy sculpture, 1976-1990. New York:
H.N. Abrams, 1993. P.13

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Goldsworthy sees himself as a Formalist38, concerned with abstracted

forms, which are richly symbolic like holes, voids, circular patterns, spirals

and wandering lines39. While perhaps best known for his ephemeral works

that exist only in photographs, Goldsworthy has also produced a number

of ‘permanent’ commissions later in his career, from about 198640, which

extend the underlying themes and working methodologies of his

ephemeral works. Andrew Causey in Hand to Earth describes

Goldsworthy’s interactions with nature thus41:

…Goldsworthy is a collaborator with nature, interested in the way

wind and rain form pools in the folds of his earthworks, the sun and

shadow encourage some growth and not other.

Goldsworthy’s ephemeral installations utilise natural materials and often

only last for a few short moments (long enough to be documented), before

blowing or melting away. While these works are man-made, the materials

give them an organic quality as if they could have happened by chance.

Goldsworthy viewed himself as a formalist. While there have been various

incarnations of formalism, the style was actively developed by Clive Bell

and Roger Fry in 1912-14. The focus was on process, line, colour, tone and

mass, emphasising the importance of the visual qualities of a work42,

which Fry described as the ‘emotional elements of design’43. The influence

38 Tufnell, Ben. Land art. London ;New York: Tate, 2006. P.81
39 Tufnell, Ben. ibid p.82Land art. London ;New York: Tate, 2006. P.82
40 Goldsworthy, Andy. Hand to earth : Andy Goldsworthy sculpture, 1976-1990. New York:
H.N. Abrams, 1993. P.143
41 Goldsworthy, Andy. ibid. p.127 Hand to earth : Andy Goldsworthy sculpture, 1976-
1990. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1993. P.127
42 Meecham, Pam. Modern art : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. London ;New York: Routledge,
2005. pp.26-27
43 As quoted in Gott, Ted. Modern Britain 1900-1960. Melbourne Vic. ;Hove: National Gallery

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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of formalism on Goldsworthy’s art can be viewed in the emphasis on

process and colour and use of line and shape.

The bold use of colour enriches works like Maple Leaves of 1991 or

Sumach Leaves laid around a hole of 1998, with an energy and vibrancy

reminiscent of the colour-field paintings of artists, such as Mark Rothko.

Rothko viewed red tones as having energising properties44, and like other

artists including Yves Kline (who was a known influence of Goldsworthy’s)

believed in a spirituality of colour. They took the formalist elements of

artists like Kazimir Malevich and focused them on colour.

The ephemerality of Goldsworthy’s natural installations also has an

element of performance, as it exists only for a short time and is often only

captured through documentation in the form of photographs and visual

recordings. The extension of art to encompass performance has opened

the gateway for ephemeral works to be considered art forms.

Performance art developed from a fascination with the process of

producing an artwork. Harold Rosenberg theorised that the work of art was

in the ‘act’ of producing the artwork itself, and relegated the end product

to the position of a ‘souvenir’ of the process45. This is particularly relevant

when the works of an Abstract Expressionist, Action-painter like Jackson

Pollock is viewed. While the painting does have formal qualities controlled

of Victoria 2008. P. 37
44 Catherine Speck, “Dystopias: Expressionism, 'primitivism', post World War II abstraction” (Lecture,
University of Adelaide, September 14, 2009).
45 Meecham, Pam. Modern art : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. London ;New York: Routledge,
2005. P238

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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by Pollock, the movement and process is what is most apparent and in

some cases documented to show process46.

Thus through the development of Modernist art forms like Action-painting

the ‘performance’ of making a work gained prominence, leading to

emphasis on the ‘performance’ in Performance art. This finally evolved

into allow the production of an art work become an art form that no longer

has a need to produce a definitive end product, but could exist in

documentation. Thus installations like Goldsworthy’s can exist without the

need for permanency.

MALLEEFOWL NESTS 2008 - JAMES DARLING

James Darling began producing his iconographic Malleefowl Nests in

199447. He was influenced heavily by artists such as Ad Reinhardt, Frank


46 Meecham, Pam. ibid Modern art : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. London ;New York:
Routledge, 2005. P. 238
47 Thomas, Daniel. James Darling : instinct, imagination, physical work. Kent Town S.

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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Stella, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol who were featured in an exhibition

Two Decades of American Painting, which Darling visited in 196748.

However he did not see the Marcel Duchamp exhibition that toured

Australia around the same time, described as having an ‘aesthetic

plainness ... crucial for Darling’s later embrace of plane, common

objects’49. For Darling, Minimalist art was ‘a jolt of self recognition’ and

would influence his agricultural philosophy as well as his art50.

These installations highlight the endangered status of the Malleefowl,

which has suffered loss of habitat since the settlement of the area51, and

draw the viewer’s attention to the symbiotic link between human and

environment. 'Nature is not a background' is one of Darling’s familiar

sayings52.

The Malleefowl Nests are made of interlocking mallee roots that were a

product of land clearing when Darling and his partner Lesley Forwood

moved into their farm, Duck Island in 197653. The production of these

nests carefully transformed these hard, irregular shaped roots into large

circular mounds with a gentle indentation at the middle. As Waterlow

Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2001. P.16


48 Thomas, Daniel. ibid p.6James Darling : instinct, imagination, physical work. Kent Town
S. Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2001.p.6
49 Thomas, Daniel. ibid James Darling : instinct, imagination, physical work. Kent Town S.
Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2001. P.6
50 Thomas, Daniel. ibid p.7 James Darling : instinct, imagination, physical work. Kent Town
S. Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2001. P.7
51 Thomas, Daniel. James Darling : instinct, imagination, physical work. Kent Town S.
Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2001. P.16
52 Paul Downton, “Everyone Lives Downstream: James Darling and Lesley Forwood,” Artlink Magazine 25, no.
1 (2004), http://www.artlink.com.au/articles.cfm?id=2275. p. 6
53 Fenner, Felicity. Handle with care : 2008 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art. Adelaide S.
Aust.: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2008.p.73

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described54, ‘[the nest is] constructed with such care and affection that it

bestowed dignity and purpose on each root...’

The larger than life nests are formed with gently sloping slides carefully

pieces together. They are unassuming in both their composition as well as

their colour, much in the camouflaged manner of the real nests. Their

presence in the gallery brings the fowls plight to the viewer, asking the

viewer to consider the constructions that pay homage to the original

malleefowl architects and their endangered status.

One of Darling’s primary conceptual inspirations is Donald Judd. In 1974

Judd was commissioned to build a concrete, site-specific installation on the

sloping lawn of the Art Gallery of South Australia. While its parallels with

actual Malleefowl nests are coincidental (as the nests can often be found

on gently sloping hills in Mallee country) its influence on the Malleefowl

Nests is tangible; it reminded Darling of the Minimalism he saw in New

York and set a standard for him55. Judd’s work encompassed Darlings

concept of “wholeness”, as his art embraces the idea that mankind is not

separate from nature, just as mind is not separate from body56.

Minimalism is a strong influence on the Malleefowl Nests. While they are

built of non-industrial materials, the strong sense of geometry forged by

the tightly interlocking roots gives an architectural sense of sculpture.

There is also a strong element of preplanning to these installations. The

54 Fenner, Felicity. ibid p.32 Handle with care : 2008 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art.
Adelaide S. Aust.: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2008.p.32
55 Thomas, Daniel. James Darling : instinct, imagination, physical work. Kent Town S.
Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2001. p.17
56 Thomas, Daniel. ibid p.7 James Darling : instinct, imagination, physical work. Kent Town
S. Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2001. P.7

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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nest has been pared down to a more basic form, yet rather than arbitrary

representation, each nest Darling, and his partner Lesley Forwood, build is

based on a real Malleefowl Nest, as it was right before construction, with

different nests reflecting different things about the fowls that created

them, varying in size and workmanship depending on the age of the fowl

and environment at the time of construction. They are built to be viewed

at both human standing height and from the fowl’s 40cm standing

height57.

The nests themselves have an organic, earthy feel that resonates

particularly among Australians who are familiar with the iconographic

sturdy roots as a good source of low-burning firewood. This use of such a

banal material for art production draws back to the artistic traditions of

Arte Povera and the acceptance of utilising materials of commonplace,

non-art origins which are essentially refuse58. Arte Povera drew from the

traditions established in Modernism as early as 1914, with the most noted

instant of the use of the non-art object in Marcel Duchamp’s

Readymades59. Exhibited in the gallery space these were everyday objects

that were announced as art, and forced the art world to re-think how they

conceived of the art object. Thus through the door opened by Duchamp

and widened in Arte Povera to make use of discarded materials, gallery

57 Thomas, Daniel. loc.cit. James Darling : instinct, imagination, physical work. Kent Town S.
Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2001. 17

58 Perry, Gill, and Paul Wood, eds. Themes in Contemporary Art. London: Yale University Press,
2004.p.243
59 Perry, Gill, and Paul Wood, ibid p.55 eds. Themes in Contemporary Art. London: Yale
University Press, 2004. P.55

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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based artworks which make use of recycled materials, like the Malleefowl

Nests are common-place and accepted.

Modernism opened the doors to allow a variety of conceptual and physical

aspects of art to exist, one of the most notable of which is the

development of Environmental art. Through the analysis of specific works,

aspects of the influence of Modernism can be highlighted. The selection of

Hans Haacke’s Grass Grows, Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field, the

ephemeral artworks produced by Andy Goldsworthy and James Darling’s

Malleefowl Nests, seeks to highlight the diverse nature of environmental

sculpture, incorporating examples of both site specific and gallery based

art, from a variety of countries from the beginning of the movement, in

1968, to present day.

While each work may have a variety of Modernist influences at play, from

concept to construction, specific aspects have been selected to

demonstrate the diversity of the Modernist influences including similarities

between the conceptual questions that the artworks raise, the materials

used and the concepts conveyed.

Haacke and Goldsworthy are comparable with their reliance on nature to

create their respective artworks. Both Grass Grows and works like Sumach

Leaves laid around a hole are process driven. Goldsworthy focuses on his

own processes with organic materials, arranging them into a predefined,

symbolic shape or pattern, while Haacke uses the artworks own natural

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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processes. Contrastingly, Goldsworthy’s works could be removed in a few

seconds with the wind, while Haacke’s works could remain indefinitely.

Both artworks have been enabled by the development of performance art

and the changed philosophies of Minimalism.

Goldsworthy and Darling share similarities of material. Both use organic

refuse, in the leaves, stone, mud and ice of Goldsworthy’s installations

and the discarded mallee roots of Darling’s Malleefowl Nests. These

materials are the legacy of the Modernist era, particularly in the ideas of

arte povera and pop that recontextualised the use of the non-art object

into an artistic material.

De Maria and Haacke both make use of natural processes which are

integral to their work. Nether work could exist without nature as it is the

natural processes which underpin the very function of the works as art

objects. Lightning Field would not exist without the lightning and Grass

Grows would not exist without growing grass. The establishment of Kinetic

art and the changes in philosophy of the role of the artists allowed these

kinds of work to be conceived as art.

Through all of the selected environmental works, Minimalism has been a

key influence in materials, as in Lightning Field, concept in Grass Grows,

colour in Goldsworthy’s installations and structure in Malleefowl Nests.

The strong conceptual components of these Ecocentric Artwork, is a

legacy of the transformations art underwent in Modernism. Modernisms

influences and philosophies are far reaching and pervade throughout all of

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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today’s Contemporary Art, shaping it into the diverse medium for artists to

express themselves and viewers to enjoy.

Drawing from Modernism: Four Instantces of Environmental Art


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Image List
Hans Haacke, Grass Grows, New York, Earth, rye grass, variable,1969,

Walter De Maria, Lightning Field, New Mexico, Steel poles, 1.6 km x 1


km, Dia Foundation, 1977,
Andy Goldsworthy, Sumach Leaves laid around a hole, Storm King Art
Centre, Sumach leaves, variable, 1998
James Darling, Mallefowl Nest, Hall of Penola High School, Mallee roots,
85 x 590, 2008
Bibliography

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