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The Land Art Road Trip is a traveling, mobile residency program that exposes young artists to the iconic Land Art and environments of the American Southwest. Our movement is deliberate and guided by the creative impulses of the group, emerging as a free-flowing experiential journey designed to feed our artistic imaginations. Along the way we will give artists time to reflect on the experience, develop inspired works of art, and produce social and digital content that promotes the artists, the gallery, and our partners. Our journey is an artistic expression shaped by the sensory experience of the Southwest, and painted across the vast canvas of the open road.
Here is an article I wrote for The Art Newspaper about the 2013 Gerson Zevi Land Art Road Trip:
A new, peripatetic, artist residency that launched in September took young artists on a month-long journey across the American Southwest to visit the idealistic art made there during the 1970s and 1980s. The aim of the Land Art Road Trip was to explore the kind of conversations and work that might result from a band of 14 emerging artists, aged between 22 and 34 years old, travelling with other young creatives, including art historians, filmmakers, novelists, journalists, musicians, a geologist and a trained chef.
The idea was to create a self-sufficient and collaborative community, living simply, replicating the quixotic ethos of the 1970s. Much like the artist Donald Judd, who left New York in 1979 to work in the wilderness of Marfa, Texas, many of the artists in the group temporarily abandoned their urban metropolis centres to work, often for the first time, in rural environments.
We visited Land Art sites including Michael Heizer’s first major work, Double Negative, 1969-1970, which consists of two trenches measuring a combined 1,500 feet in length which have been dug deep into the Mormon Mesa, near Overton, Nevada. In Utah, we visited Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, 1970, in the Great Salt Lake and Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels, 1976, four large concrete tubes placed in an x-formation in the desert. From there, to Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, 1977, an installation of 400 stainless steel poles planted in a grid in a remote high desert in New Mexico. The group stayed in several national parks, including the Grand Canyon, before ending in Texas, with its vast open spaces, unfathomable distances and barren landscape.
The trip did not feel like a pilgrimage, because it was about discovery and novelty. The sheer scale of the land and otherworldly light impacted the artists, who were impressed with the madness of creating art in the middle of nowhere, to let art stand in competition with nature. They began to experiment. Rosanna Bach, for example, usually photographs with black and white film but began to draw with orange, pinks and purples pastel crayons, evoking the extraordinary sunsets in the Southwest. The sculptor Yana Naidenov, who typically works with ephemeral materials such as paper and glue, started stone carving after finding two beautiful stones in the Valley of Fire, Nevada.
Others found direct links to their existing practice: the crystalised salt of Spiral Jetty and the Bonneville Salt Flats reverberated with Camilla Emson, who works with salt sculptures. Some began collaborations: Luke Hart and Tomas Downes both create architectural sculpture, and in Quemado started to build a wooden construction together in a forest, while the photographers Alexander Getty and Adam Brochstein showed others how to use software and make the best use of their cameras.
Perhaps grouping artists together in this mobile residency context is a new way to encourage the type of dialogue once offered by belonging to a school or movement, and which is so important for those artists who are still finding their way. Perhaps grouping artists together in this mobile residency context is a new way to encourage the type of dialogue offered by the field trips that Art Schools typically provide. The artists on the trip all agreed that being in the physical presence of art, as a group and outside the traditional institutional or gallery environment, was very important in enriching their education and forming of their language.
Spending 24 hours at the various sites with a group of artists I had never met before changed my perception of work that I thought I knew quite well. As a group, we had the same point of reference but all were coming from different communities. The exchange of information and the experiential aspect of living with the artworks was unique, made me think of how the works were made, and is something that at this stage in my career would not have been possible otherwise.