To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we selected this work by Robert Morris. It’s one of 10 lithographs from his Earth Projects portfolio. Morris writes in the frontispiece of the portfolio:
The 10 projects presented here…are organized around certain phenomena that can best be experienced outside…dust storms, earthquakes, plowed fields, sudden changes of temperature, Indian mounds, concrete dams, formal gardens, steam rising from dumps of vast quantities of materials…My experience of all these things somehow entered into the 10 projects. One fairly constant concern was for a vastness of scale realized in other than monumental commemorative terms. That is, most of the projects would, if built, be of such a scale that the whole of the work could not be seen. This would allow the body the encounter of exploration through walking rather than through an instantaneous visual impression.
—Robert Morris, frontispiece to the Earth Projects portfolio, 1969
I appreciate how Morris embraces the idea of an artwork so large one might not necessarily see it even when they are standing in front of or even inside it. To me, that feels appropriate to the way that nature moves around us: always present, but sometimes so big (or so small!) we don’t always notice it. The Earth Projects portfolio further focuses on using the Earth as the material for art making. The artist proposes manipulating sources such as soil and water while embracing the effects of changing seasons (wind, ice, rain) upon those things. In doing so, Morris combines his own artistic concepts with the Earth’s natural and beautiful ability to generate and destroy.
A proponent of the Conceptual and Minimalist movements, Morris explored in the Earth Projects portfolio his interest in land art and earthworks. He is also associated with developments in modern dance in the 1960s and authored the seminal essay “Notes on Sculpture” in 1968.
~ Contributed by Assistant Curator Hilary Schroeder