Land Arts of the American West
Land art encompasses the full spectrum of human responses to a specific landscape over time. From the perspective of architect Chris Taylor and artist Bill Gilbert, land art ranges from the inscription of pictographs and petrogylphs to the construction of roads, dwellings, and monuments, as well as traces of those actions. It includes gestures both small and grand, directing our attention from potsherd, cigarette butt, and mark in the sand to human settlements, monumental artworks, and military/industrial projects such as hydroelectric dams and decommissioned airfields.
In Land Arts of the American West, Taylor and Gilbert present the results of a remarkable ongoing collaboration in which they investigate and create land art with students from the University of Texas and the University of New Mexico. The land arts program was started by Bill Gilbert in 2000 and has developed as a collaboration between Gilbert and Taylor since 2002. The description of the program in this book is organized around places that the authors and their students visit during a two-month journey each fall, ranging from Native American sites such as Chaco Canyon, to man-made industrial structures such as Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, to monumental earthworks such as Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake.
Each place in Land Arts comes alive through color photographs accompanied by descriptive information about the site's natural and human history; students' journal entries that present first-person experiences of the place; and essays by experts in archaeology, art history, architecture, writing, activism, studio art, and design who join the group as they travel. Woven throughout the text is a conversation among Taylor, Gilbert, and writer William L. Fox, who draws the authors out about the land art program's origins, pedagogic mission, field operations, interactions with guest lecturers, and future directions.