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Earthworks

Art and the Landscape of the Sixties

Suzaan Boettger (Author)

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Paperback, 316 pages
ISBN: 9780520241169
March 2004
$38.95, £26.95
Suzaan Boettger offers the first comprehensive history of the Earthworks movement in the United States, providing a fascinating and in-depth analysis of the monumental forms that initiated the broader genre of Land Art. Examining the art, the artists, their dealers and proponents, Boettger interprets Earthworks as a manifestation both of artists' personal stories and of the late 1960s social and political tumult.

Boettger overturns many commonly held notions of Earthworks' origins and intentions. She argues that Robert Smithson's work on the Dallas-Fort Worth airport stimulated his thinking and that his writing about it catalyzed the movement. The visionary environments that followed, often sculpted in expansive and remote western terrains, were idealized by Americans and Europeans alike as displays of cowboy bravado. Boettger identifies earthworkers Michael Heizer, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Morris, Walter de Maria, and Stephen Kaltenbach as former Californians whose treatment of the landscape reflects a western spirit. Her international purview integrates early work by the Europeans Barry Flanagan, Jan Dibbets, Richard Long, and Pino Pascali as precedents and parallels. Her examination of Earthworks' relationship to the ecology movement perceptively corrects a popular misconception about the artists' goals while acknowledging the social and cultural complexities of the period.

Insightful discussions of Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, and Claes Oldenburg--in addition to the artists mentioned above--are accompanied by many rare and new photographs of both the art and its creators. Witty, accessible, and scrupulously researched, Earthworks constructs day-to-day chronologies of the development of the artistic movement and its intersections with the larger public events of the time, including specific accounts of galleries, exhibitions, and criticism. Boettger's dynamic social history and psychological insights bring new meaning to this pivotal movement that both embodied and disrupted contemporary notions of art, nature, society, and their relationship to each other.
1. October 1967: A Corner of a Larger Field
2. The Ground of Earthen Sculpture
3. Toward Heterotopias
4. The Stimulus of Aerial Art
5. The West as Site and Spirit
6. Intransigent Nature on Fifty-seventh Street
7. 1969: Endings and Dispersals
8. Monumental Sculpture in the Wilderness
9. Nurture and Nature
10. 1973: Return to the Park
Notes
List of Illustrations
Chronology of the Sixties
Bibliography
Acknowledgments
Index
A prominent art critic in northern California in the 1980s, Suzaan Boettger (pronounced BET-ger) is now an art historian and active critic based in New York City. A popular speaker, she has lectured at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Queens Museum, and the Oakland Museum, and she regularly writes for Art in America.
"Boettger has produced a major historical document. . . . [M]eticulously researched, the writing engages with the timbre of a joyful storyteller."—James Croak Sculpture
“A useful overview and points to some interpretive issues. . . . Hopefully, the historical investigations of Boettger and others will succeed in returning to Earthworks the excitement and challenge it represented in that most transformative decade of the 1960s.”—Kevin D. Murphy Art New England
"Suzaan Boettger brings alive the kaleidoscopic reality of late 1960s American culture in this elegantly written account of the radical style and ecological ambiguities of the Earthworks movement. The best book on art in the 1960s that I’ve read in years."—David Farber, author of The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s

"Given its epic intellectual scope, amazingly reader-friendly. This book will become the major source on Earthworks."—Ann Gibson, author of Abstract Expressionism: Other Politics

"Has the potential to be the definitive book on the subject."—Frances Colpitt, author of Abstract Art in the Late Twentieth Century

"A good read . . . a page turner, it brought back the flavor of the era with new historical insights—made me want to go out and dig!"—M. Louise Stanley, painter

Chapter One
October 1967: A Corner of a Larger Field

By not burying a thing the dirt enters into the concept, and little enough separates the dirt inside the excavation from that outside.
Claes Oldenburg

This account of Earthworks, sculptures best known as enormous mounds and excavations in remote wilderness environments, begins by looking into a hole dug in New York City's Central Park. The very fact that on Sunday, October 1, 1967, an excavation as a work of art was produced by Claes Oldenburg, one who can not be considered an earthworker but who was an innovator in the realms of Happenings and Pop Art, suggests the status in the art world at that time of working with geological material. Exactly a year later, at the Dwan Gallery in New York City, documentation of this work and also other sculpture by Oldenburg would go on view among sculpture by nine other artists in the exhibition earth works, the debut of the genre. Dug a year before that show brought the movement to widespread public attention, Oldenburg's temporary trench epitomizes the multiple sources of Earthworks and the relation of these works to the "dirt" around them.

Characteristic of Oldenburg's manner of dialectical play, the Hole's six-foot-long rectangular recession encompasses associations ranging from the formal to the funereal . Its boxy geometric form partakes of the blunt simplicity germane to the abstract constructivist and minimalist work prevalent at the time. Concurrent exhibitions—Scale as Content in Washington, D.C., 19:45-21:55 near Frankfurt, Germany, and Arte Povera in Genoa, Italy—show Oldenburg's work as a condensation of new sculptural ideas of both large size and loose natural materials then being investigated in the United States and Europe. But its shape, produced at the beginning of a month when mounting public revulsion against the Vietnam War would be demonstrated in a massive march on the Pentagon three weeks later, also calls to mind the spareness of a grave.

Less than a year and a half later, a sculptor writing about the apparent casualness of Postminimalism discussed Oldenburg's transient hole as an almost apocryphal predecessor. The art, he said, "is almost invisible to all but those in the know, in that to the casual observer it goes unnoticed as a conscious work of art. . . . Oldenburg is the pioneer in this area, as he was also a pioneer with soft materials. Who has actually seen his famous Grave piece?"1 This ephemeral Hole dug in the dirt of Manhattan's pastoral Other encapsulates the fundamentals of a genre of contemporary sculpture that in ensuing years achieved prominence for being sited in distant desert terrain and became known as Earthworks.

The impetus of Oldenburg's dig into earthy otherness was the earliest exhibition in New York City for which large-scale sculpture was temporarily moved out of the interiors of art world studios, galleries, and museums and into public places. Titled Sculpture in Environment, the display was sponsored by the New York City Administration of Recreation and Cultural Affairs. As part of its Cultural Showcase Festival, large-scale sculptures by twenty-four artists were installed in areas chosen by the artists and accessible to the public— interior and exterior, public, municipal, and corporate spaces—throughout Manhattan. They were on view throughout October 1967. In the accompanying catalogue August Heckscher, the city's Administrator of Research and Cultural Affairs and Commissioner of Parks, explained that the purpose of this public display, was twofold: "to let these great pieces loose in the city" and "to set them under the light of day where they intrude upon our daily walks and errands." His implicit analogy to beings customarily fettered (pets, zoo inhabitants, young children, convicts) then "let. . . loose" suggests his sense of the works' uninhibited alienness. It echoes the exclamation —also inherently sympathetic—made in 1905 by the Parisian critic Louis Vauxcelles that the garish landscapes of Henri Matisse and André Derain suggested work by "les fauves"—wild beasts— and conveys Heckscher's apprehension about the sculptures' aggressive invasion of common space. Indeed, Heckscher continued the bestial metaphor in his explicit warning that the works "will undoubtedly provoke some howls of shock and scattered grumblings of discontent."2

Aside from a sensitivity to the public's discomfort with abstract art, Heckscher may have been alluding to the dissension generated two years earlier by Lincoln Center's permanent installation of Alexander Calder's Le Guichet near the entrance to the Library of the Performing Arts and Henry Moore's Reclining Figure in the adjacent pool .3 Yet, while those works were considered inappropriately radical by at least one city bureaucrat, for progressive American art critics they became negative touchstones for a clichéd approach to selecting art for public places.4Heckscher clearly was not as comfortable with modern sculpture as was his predecessor as parks commissioner, the art historian Thomas Hoving, who, in one of his last ventures as commissioner before becoming director of the Metropolitan Museum in April 1967, organized an installation of large cubic sculptures by Tony Smith in Bryant Park during February 1967.5 Reviewing this exhibition, the New York Times critic Hilton Kramer expressed his incredulity at the city's adventurousness. After praising these "genuinely serious and ambitious works of contemporary art," Kramer compared them favorably to "the kind of unexceptionable esthetic fare—at the moment, this means Henry Moore or Alexander Calder—usually seized upon by timid civic benefactors with an interest in enhancing some outdoor site."6 The boldness of Tony Smith's Bryant Park display was one of several elements that set the stage for Sculpture in Environment, and Kramer's praise foreshadowed the positive reception with which Earthworks would be greeted.

Underlying Smith's outdoor exhibition and the indirect expansion of that as Sculpture in Environment was the widespread institutionalization of large-scale art in the early 1960s as enhancements for offices and public spaces. Two federal programs initiated in the mid-1960s to commission architecturally scaled work thereby stimulated its production.7 The General Services Administration's Fine Arts in New Buildings Program, begun 1963 in response to a report requested by President John F. Kennedy on federal architecture, inaugurated the procedure of commissioning large tapestries, mosaics, murals, and sculpture for federal offices.8 The government suspended the program in 1966 due to "the economic pressures of the Vietnam War" and reactivated it in 1973 as the Art-in-Architecture Program.9 The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), founded in 1965, established its Art in Public Places Program early in 1967. In May its first matching grant was awarded to Grand Rapids, Michigan; Alexander Calder's La Grand Vitesse would be dedicated there in June 1969.10 These programs encouraged the establishment of state and local percent-for-art mandates, in which a percentage of the construction costs of a public facility had to be spent on art. They also created economic incentives for contemporary sculpture's stylistic vogue for enlarging size.

It was an exhibition held earlier in 1967 in Philadelphia, in response to the new challenge of selecting art for public places, that inspired New York's Sculpture in Environment. Philadelphia's percent-for-art program, instituted in 1959, had been one of the earliest in America. "A tentative step towards the interrelation of art and urban life" is how Sam Green, the director of Philadelphia's Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, described the show he organized, called Art for the Cit:

The city of Philadelphia has established a law providing that one per cent of the total construction cost of a public building must be devoted to the ornamentation of the structure with works of fine art. . . . Too often the artist's sensibility and sensitivity are used long after all relevant planning has been done. Most often he is then asked to somehow "beautify" the situation. It is hoped that this exhibition will have some effect on city officials by encouraging them to think in terms of what artists have to offer the city while it is still in its planning stages.11
The procedure Green advocated, of integrating the artist's input very early in the design process, was in advance of its time and did not become standard practice for a decade or more. In 1967, Art for the City and the expanded version Green was subsequently asked to a curate for New York City, Sculpture in Environment, helped increase the public's familiarity with idioms of contemporary sculpture.

For the New York exhibition, Green expanded his roster of well-established New York and internationally recognized artists. He included those specifically known for making large welded abstractions, such as Calder, Alexander Lieberman, George Rickey, and David Smith, and one who was not: Barnett Newman, a major abstract expressionist painter. The largest of Newman's few sculptures, the twenty-six-foot high Broken Obelisk was placed on the prestigious site of the forecourt (more commonly called plaza) of the Seagrams Building. Among the younger generation doing steel work was Charles Ginnever, whose painted Midas and Fog (1966) presented an array of open trompe l'oeil rectangles on the lawn of Carl Schurtz Park, overlooking the East River and opposite Mayor John Lindsey's residence, Gracie Mansion.

"That was the first organized outdoor exhibit in New York, as far as I know," Ginnever recalled. "Sam kind of opened up New York in that respect."12 For the sculptors themselves the show presented a prominent venue for new forms of big work. Irving Sandler acknowledged this in the catalogue: "The sheer size of recent works has raised the question of where to exhibit them."13 They were "let loose" over a large area of Manhattan. Two wood constructions by Louise Nevelson were placed outside what was then known as the CBS Building at Fifty-second Street and Sixth Avenue, a Plexiglas-walled environment by Les Levine stood in the forecourt of the Time-Life Building two blocks south, Orange Vertical Floor Neon by Stephen Antonakos was installed at Loeb Student Center at New York University, and Forrest Myers created a nocturnal event by projecting four carbon arc searchlights from Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.14

In 1967 Oldenburg was recognized as the major sculptor of the Pop Art idiom. Then thirty-eight, he had arrived in New York from Chicago in 1956, having studied art and literature at Yale and then art at the Chicago Art Institute while working as a reporter and illustrator for local newspapers. By 1959 Oldenburg had had his first exhibition at Red Grooms's Delancey Street Museum and became active with Grooms and Allan Kaprow in creating Happenings. His signature sculptural practice in the mid-1960s centered on satirical inversion with spatial enlargement. Prosaic commercial goods became the subject for objets d'art, rigid household items such as a steel fan or a porcelain toilet were rendered immense in canvas stuffed with kapok or unstructured, hence droopy, vinyl. But in an unguarded public space, such fragile, pliable materials (plaster, papier-mâché, and cloth) would be vulnerable to damage. Oldenburg had also been drawing fantasy monuments. His first approach, which initially came into public view in his May 1965 show at the Sidney Janis Gallery, was to show a familiar object oversized in an urban landscape.15 These objects included Colossal Block of Concrete Inscribed with Names of War Heroes (1965), which he proposed for the chaotic intersection of Canal Street and Broadway—purportedly a spot where an atomic bomb would do the most widespread damage.16 Another proposal was his Kennedy Tomb, a memorial to the late president, in which a hollow casting in the ground, as large as the Statue of Liberty, took its shape taken from a famous photograph of the president in a suit, with his hands in his pockets.

Oldenburg's Central Park piece became the first of his monuments to be produced, but it was not his first proposal for an excavation with memorial overtones.

Neither was the Hole Oldenburg's first proposal for Sculpture in Environment. Grace Glueck reported that his "initial notion was a traffic jam. It could be 'programmed,' he felt, simply by parking buses at a number of intersections. After all, was not the show to be sculpture in environment?" Subsequently, he proposed a "silly subway, decked out like a Mardi-gras float, with live music, to liven up strap-hangers' lives; a scream monument—an amplified scream recording that would resound through the city late at night . . . and a Free Food Fountain . . . continually dispensing a nourishing paste that would taste perfectly dreadful. 'That way,' said Oldenburg, 'the needy could take it without any sense of obligation.'"17

However, Green, who had in mind a show of sculpture as three-dimensional aesthetic objects, considered these early Oldenburg proposals "preposterous," and possibly a way to evade making a work for or even participating in the exhibition.18 Green had rejected Robert Morris's proposal for the creation of jets of steam, as he wasn't interested in such an ephemeral work, and additionally steam seemed technically difficult to produce safely in a public place and to sustain continuously.19 At the other extreme, Isamu Noguchi, "one of the first we contacted," wanted to create one of the playgrounds he had designed years earlier, but that construction would have been too expensive for the budget. After negotiations, Green accepted Oldenburg's proposal to dig a neat rectangular trench, six feet long, three feet wide and six feet deep, understanding it as an inverted sculpture, an imaginary recessed box akin to the simple rectangular cubic boxes, floorbound, that the sculptor Donald Judd was producing in a style that would come to be called Minimal Art.20 Oldenburg himself recalled that he originally thought of it as a rectangular removal of earth, although his undated notes, presumably written shortly after it was done, suggest many allusions. The two men agreed upon its Central Park site behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, northwest of the obelisk known as Cleopatra's Needle. As Heckscher presciently surmised that the Parks Department would be criticized for using its grounds staff to do the digging, Green hired others to do it. Appropriately, for the shape of the hole they were to dig, they were professional diggers, unionized employees of cemeteries. Funds were raised privately to pay them "the going rate of $50 a grave a man."21

Officially titled the ironic Placid Civic Monument, this witty Dada-esque refutation of formal monumentality was referred to by Oldenburg, in his notebook, more bluntly as "The Hole."22 Oldenburg's notes report that the ground was broken at 10:00 A.M., Sunday, 1 October (the first day of the month-long exhibition) and "grave dug 10:30—12:30." Oldenburg's brief documentary film of the event shows a sunny day and bicyclists and leisurely strollers in the background. After a lunch break, the Hole was filled and by early afternoon the ground level smoothed over and trimmed. The next day, the New York Times reported that Oldenburg's Central Park work had been "shrouded in secrecy and recreation and culture officials had intended no announcement of the event." The aim had been to suppress any public ridicule of the city's sponsorship (and implicit endorsement) of this eccentric act producing what officials of the Recreation and Cultural Affairs Administration termed an "invisible sculpture. . . . "23

Yet a simple bureaucratic request seemed to have unraveled the binds of secrecy and made the refilled excavation prominently "visible." Green recalls that he sought permission to park automobiles behind the Metropolitan Museum and called Hoving to obtain it. The benefit of having friends in high places is that they can command parking permits, the disadvantage is that public utterances are prominently broadcast. Later that morning, at a ceremony inaugurating the Cultural Showcase Festival a few blocks away at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Hoving announced, seemingly in a spirit of jocular faux self-deprecation, the digging of "a grave right in back of the Metropolitan. . . . Whether I'm supposed to jump into it I don't know." Mayor Lindsey retorted to Hoving that the hole "had been dug . . . as a final resting place for ex-Park Commissioners."24

This lively exchange incited reporters to hasten to the rear of the Metropolitan Museum, provoking just the notoriety for Oldenburg's project that Heckscher had sought to avoid. Published responses included several days' letters to the editors, remarkably good humored even if mistakenly complaining about the use of public Park Department funds, and Heckscher's reply. Russell Baker wrote a column complaining of Green's intimidating pretentiousness in terming it a "conceptual work of art," but offering that "one man's dirt is another man's sculpture." Taking up the issue of conceptual art and visibility, the Toronto Globe and Mail published a cartoon consisting of a large blank rectangle with the caption, quoting Green, "'A conceptual work of art is as valid as something you can actually see.'—New York Cultural Festival." Bernard Malamud would write a short story tangentially about the hole.25

The term conceptual work of art had been promoted a few months earlier by Sol LeWitt, who had published his "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art" in Artforum the previous June. Describing conceptual art as driven by "the idea [that] becomes a machine that makes the art," LeWitt contrasted that to art based on opticality, "meant for the sensation of the eye."26 In the early years of its usage in the mid-1960s, before it was systemized by artists and critics, the term conceptual art was applied to a variety of vanguard forms. (It is still used indiscriminately by the mass media, much as the term Dada was used in the early twentieth century for any style of art that is radical in format or bewildering to the speaker.) Corroborating the use of conceptual art for his excavation, Oldenburg had in his journal termed his Hole a "nonvisible. . .monument."27 This element of "nonvisiblity" or inaccessibility—a result of burial, transience, or geographical remoteness— is another aspect aligned to practices fundamental to Earthworks.

Taking the exhibition title, Sculpture in Environment literally, Oldenburg dug into the park soil to create a sculpture that consisted of a recession into the ground instead of a projection upward from it. Inversion was a device that in 1967 had gotten a lot of play. Carl Andre's solo show in March at the Dwan Gallery in Los Angeles consisted of an installation of unaffixed bricks smoothly covering the floor except for a few narrow rectangular areas. The negative spaces became recessed "holes" in the brick "floor." In the summer 1967 issue of Artforum, Robert Smithson identified Andre's motto as "A thing is a hole in a thing it is not."28 More than a year before that Smithson himself had made a maquette for a proto-earthwork, Tar Pool and Gravel Pit, which consisted of a square recession in the middle of the top of a larger square box. It had been shown in an exhibition that Oldenburg also participated in, Monuments, Tombstones, and Trophies, held at New York's Museum of Contemporary Crafts from mid-March to mid-May 1967.

The characteristic that most conspicuously links the Hole to Earthworks is its material: Its use of lowly soil extended the incorporation during the 1950s of dirt, sand, or urban detritus in painting and sculpture. Like earlier twentieth-century artists' gritty paintings or assemblages of aged objects, it refuted the equation of expensive materials with aesthetic value or more specifically, in regard to the increasing prices for Abstract Expressionism, of sensuously slathered pigment with its market worth. This substance can be called earth, soil, or dirt, each with different associations. In his notes for this project Oldenburg uses the first and last of these words with their specific connotations of the natural world ("mound of excavated earth,") and our planet ("some small part of the earth") as well as of matter in the wrong place ("some of the dirt which did not fit back in").29 In any case, this material is cheap, artistically lowly, and was used unprocessed and unreinforced, thus producing a temporary form in contrast to the metals or stone of a work built for the ages. His adoption of non-fine art materials was something for which Oldenburg was by then well known.

Oldenburg's Hole was the first contemporary sculpture made directly in the ground. Yet it was dug at a time when the use of those unrefined materials specifically associated with the surface of the earth—dirt and sand— was gaining increasing importance in sculpture. In the United States the most immediate artistic precedent was the project Smithson described in his 1967 article "Towards the Development of an Air Terminal Site." In a paragraph discussing the geological borings taken in the preparation of a construction site , Smithson noted:

The "boring," like other "earth works," is becoming more and more important to artists. Pavements, holes, trenches, mounds, heaps, paths, ditches, roads, terraces, etc., all have an esthetic potential. . . . Remote places such as the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and the frozen wastes of the North and South Poles could be coordinated by art forms that would use the actual land as medium. Television could transmit such activity all over the world. Instead of using a paintbrush to make his art, Robert Morris would like to use a bulldozer.30
This was the first mention of the term earth works (then two words) in an artistic context. In effect it announced what would become a new genre of sculpture. It was promulgated by an artist known—both from previous articles and his regular presence at Max's Kansas City, a New York bar frequented by artists (located on Park Avenue South at East Seventeenth Street)—for his grand and forcefully articulated ideas. Presented in an issue of Artforum devoted to American sculpture, Smithson's proposal of the "aesthetic potential" of mounds and trenches, and with an artist at the wheel of a bulldozer, had a galvanizing impact on New York sculptors. Oldenburg wrote the word "earthworks" in his notes for Hole—not in a phrase or sentence, but as an isolated word, as a random thought or reference jotted down. Presumably this was shortly following the Central Park dig, a few months after Smithson's article appeared. Yet the form he used was the one popularized after the response to the October 1968 Dwan Gallery exhibition earth works compressed the term into a single word—earthworks.31

Because the act of naming the genre of outdoor work using unrefined earthen materials was Smithson's, as well as the fact that the Dwan's survey exhibition consisted of the work of ten American men, the Earthworks movement per se has been considered an American phenomenon. Yet in these early years of proto-"Earthworks" (it was never a formal movement instituted by group consensus), several European sculptors were producing environments in rustic terrains or with natural materials. Two concurrent vanguard group exhibitions in Europe included sculptors' early use of organic or naturally occurring materials (rock and sand, for instance, although natural, are not organic; they do not live and die).


19:45-21:55

Three weeks before Oldenburg's excavation of a rectangular trough in Central Park, natural materials in expansive lateral situations were used by three of the eight artists participating in a two-hour group show in Germany. The evening event on Saturday, September 9, 1967, took place in both the interior and exterior spaces of Galerie Dorothea Loehr, located in Niederursel, outside Frankfurt. In its documentary pictorial catalogue the show or event was titled 19:45-21:55— its duration as designated on a twenty-four-hour clock—and was identified as having been arranged by Paul Maenz.32 At the time of this event Maenz was an art director and freelance curator and had been inspired to organize this project by his close friendship with the artist Peter Roehr.

Maenz has more recently described his approaches to artists for this event as invitations to make "situations of non-static character" or "to be more precise . . . 'not-lasting works of transitory/fugitive character.'"33 While the first of these descriptions sounds akin to the group Happenings that Allan Kaprow arranged in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Maenz stated, "I have never been involved or even much interested in Happenings or Fluxus events." Rather, it was a response to a European artistic situation. Maenz explained the show's impetus as "kind of an attempt to overcome the 'esoteric purity' of the nouvelles tendances movement around Yves Klein."

In the United States, a similar reaction against the metaphysical orientation of Abstract Expressionism had in the mid-1950s stimulated Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to incorporate common, weathered, and found objects into their paintings. In Berkeley, California, Bruce Conner's decrepit assemblages as well as ungainly ceramic jumbles by many other artists in a prominent exhibition just a few months before Maenz's were heralded as "Funk." In the catalogue, Dada was described as the source of both of these American phenomena. But, except for Rauschenberg's neatly boxed Dirt Painting (For John Cage)(1952-1953) (see fig. 16), none of these works included actual organic matter and, as important, they were not lateral environments.

Maenz makes the distinction that "our spirit was much rather reflected by, let's say, Harald Szeeman's later 'Attitudes' show, in 1969. . . . " This international exhibition, When Attitudes Became Form, displayed works concerned with the investigation of unrefined materials and/or process-oriented, improvisational, floorbound form. Still, as these exemplified what in America was identified as the postminimalist emphasis on unstructured materials and form, of which Earthworks was a part, 19:45-21:55 is notable as an early and non-American presentation of environmentally dispersed sculpture—what Peter Selz in 1967 termed anti-form.34

Roehr's contribution to 19:45-21:55 was his film Ringer [Wrestlers], which, according to Maenz, "was announced big (like a Hollywood movie), but lasted only 60 seconds (a repeated montage of two men wrestling)." The format—masculine subject matter, reductive imagery, and repetitive structure— is one that Andy Warhol also used in his films. Roehr was the connection to the Dutch artist Jan Dibbets (b. 1941), whom Maenz "had once met . . . accidentally when hitchhiking."

Earlier that year, Dibbets had received a British Council grant to study at St. Martin's School of Art, and had been in London from May through August 1967. St. Martin's at the time was a magnet for those interested in advanced sculpture. Since the late 1950s it had become well known for the experimental openness afforded what has been described as its "famous 'vocational' course. This was entirely unofficial and uncredited by authorities; it provided opportunities for artists who otherwise could not continue their formal education. . . . It was a competitive and somewhat controversial atmosphere."35 Anthony Caro, a former assistant to Henry Moore and himself a sculptor of expansive welded abstractions, had taught there since 1953. Having exhibited and taught in the United States, and being well received by Clement Greenberg, Caro was the dominant figure at St. Martin's until the mid-sixties. He was also a direct exponent at St. Martin's of American Modernism. British critic Charles Harrison has recalled, "American Modernism was probably better understood and absorbed at St. Martin's than anywhere else at the time, and sculpture students there [he mentions Barry Flanagan and Richard Long, among others] were therefore in a good position to make divergent moves and to have them identified as such."36 By 1965, a reaction against Caro's Modernist work was underway as it was in the United States against David Smith's and other expressionists' bold welded geometrics.

During his period at this progressive art school, Dibbets ceased painting large monochrome canvases and began making conceptual installations. He stated a few years later that what had particularly impressed him about London were the Underground (the subway system) and the parks. "When I went through the parks, I used to think that when people are taken out of the environment, what is left behind is there to be used. I felt it belonged to me, in a way."37 The attention to the botanical environment and a communal attitude toward it illustrate sentiments of the emerging public consciousness about the ecological environment as well as the utopian spirit of the youth culture. Dibbets's first new works were made on and of the grass: Grass Square (1967), of low pegs forming the corners of a square that was bound by cord, and Grass Roll (1967), of turf cut in wedges and arranged on top of grass .

The Dutch artist's most prominent piece for 19:45-21:55 was an interactive covering of the paving of the open-air courtyard of the gallery, located in a former stable. Sawdust blanketed it except for a large oval area in which the cobblestones were left visible . Dibbets himself emphasized the conceptual element. "The idea," he explained, "was to walk into the space covered with sawdust and to be disoriented by seeing a circle which optically didn't look like it. A clear 'perspective correction.'"38 This was his term for his environmental work playing with perception. And yet, as visitors to the event crossed the courtyard, their steps dispersed the sawdust, diffusing the clear area and merging it with the surrounding covered ground, " . . . thus giving the public the active part, in fact having them create, and simultaneously destroy, the piece."39

Sawdust is both an organic material, being wood, and a processed substance, being the finely ground residue of sawing. Maenz likens Dibbets's piece to a circus's sawdust-covered performance ring; he understands this work as inverting the circus show's use of sawdust inside its circular performance spaces (as in "three-ring circus"). This emphasizes sawdust's connection to culture rather than to nature; it can also be seen as an inappropriate covering of dirt or earth on a floor, akin to Walter de Maria's and Robert Morris's in the future, and perhaps preceded only by Barry Flanagan's interior One Space Sand Sculpture the previous spring (discussed in chapter five).

Dibbets brought three fellow St. Martin's students into 19:45-21:55; all had been experimenting with sculpture using organic materials. At school, he had sought out Richard Long (b. 1945), a student there from 1966 through 1968, after being impressed at a student show by Long's photograph documenting the path he had worn by repeatedly walking on grass in a line. Long had begun exploring direct engagement with the earth in 1965 when he was living in Bristol, where he grew up, and attending the West of England College of Art. There he had "gouged" a "riverway . . . out of the grass and [had] filled [it] with wet plaster which then dried taking up the exact contours of the excavation."40 The source of the earth casting, he explained, was that "Bristol, even though it is a city, has this amazing tidal river that goes through a gorge, and my childhood was spent playing on its muddy banks." Continuing, with a statement that could undoubtedly apply to all the men discussed here who mucked around in the dirt to make earth art—or more broadly, the biographical basis of much art—Long acknowledged that "part of my work comes out of my childhood pleasures."41

In the year between the spring of 1965, when he left that art school, and the fall of 1966, when he entered St. Martin's, Long's artistic investigations involved materials that included piles of leaves and of sand. For his Turf Circle England 1966 he cut a circle into soil, then cut the grass groundcover into segments, removed them, excavated an even layer of soil, and replaced the segments to make a recessed circular plane of ground. In the summer of 1967 he cut a shallow circular trench about twelve feet in diameter and thirty inches wide, leaving a flat disk of earth, a torus shape, in the middle .42 Long's Durham Downs (1967) consisted of three concentric circles of white wood segments, placed on the ground on an irregularly sloping hill, thereby distorting the circles and accentuating the hill's contour. His practice of creating works by walking originated in 1967. In A Line Made by Walking, he trod in a line back and forth across a field, wearing down the low wild grass cover, his path creating a trough of mashed, pressed blades. The work of art is the residue of the artist's act of purposeful walking. The behavioral, non-object aspect of this strongly corresponds to both the Happenings of the early 1960s and to the conceptual art described by LeWitt.

For the Frankfurt show, Long sent a bundle of sticks he had collected in the woods near his home in Bristol along with instructions for their deployment. They were to be laid

end to end in a straight line on the floor around the perimeter of the gallery, 15 cm in from each wall and parallel with it. . . . It will be necessary for someone to go into the country and select similar pieces of wood to the ones I have supplied if more are needed. . . .
I am making a complementary object in Bristol with similar components and the same dimensions, but in an outdoor environment, without architecture, people, or other objects.43
In this way Long bound the gallery's interior to a reference to the natural environment, and displaced its shape to an outline on a gently sloping field. The accommodation of architectural and natural environments, but in a spare materiality and with a strongly conceptualized aspect, exemplifies the status of environmental art in mid- to late 1967.

Two other St. Martin's graduates invited through Dibbets to participate in Maenz's show were the British artists Barry Flanagan and John Johnson. Like Dibbets, both were born in 1941 and were around twenty-six years old. Each sent instructions for works to be produced on his behalf, and both utilized organic materials. Flanagan sent numbered instructions for a participatory event in which people were to stand in a ring, turn an electric fire (heater) on and off, turn water on, pour "salt out of its container," scrape "crumbs from a slice of bread," and then "(number 10) appreciate and eat it all."44 This promoted the direct experience of various loose or unfixed materials and textures as well as socially shared dining.

Johnson requested that Maenz place about six or seven narrow blocks of turf or sod (each measuring three feet by one foot) along a line previously made with an athletic-field marker. Visually, the effect was akin to the single line of bricks that Carl Andre had exhibited in , the prominent May 1966 New York exhibition of recent sculpture, Primary Structures. But here the regular block units were organic. Johnson's piece was placed in the outdoor courtyard but adjacent to built-in cabinets, suggesting a juxtaposition, akin to Dibbets's exterior piece, of nature and architecture. At the end of this row of turf was the pile Johnson requested to be made in a corner out of successive layers of small rocks and coarse sand, topped by fine sand.45

Meanwhile, Charlotte Posenenske's system of cardboard elements was altered continually throughout the evening as assistants rearranged elements.46 Konrad Lueg's gigantic transparent tubes of air, kept filled by vacuum cleaners, towered over the courtyard.47 Big blocks of ice in proximity to Bernhard Höke's torch fire slowly melted, and when his "smoke sculpture," produced by igniting a smoke bomb, filled the entire courtyard and "many people left (in panic)," Maenz explained, "we decided to declare the event to be over (the time was 9:55 p.m. or, according to a twenty-four-hour military clock, 21:55).

One more aspect of this artistic event emphasizes the works' spirit of artistic reform. The ambiguous epigraph in the catalogue has become the alternative title by which it is known: "Dies alles herzchen wird einmal Dir gehören." Maenz explains that it "means something like 'All this will once be yours, sweetheart,' and ironically refers to those grand movie gestures, like when the sheikh points out the vast desert lands to his young successor." The allusion suggests the self-conscious progressiveness of Maenz's presentation of these works, which bridge the transient Happenings of the early sixties and the process-oriented, conceptual, anti-form and earthwork forms later in the decade. The catalogue's suggestion of projection into the future is underscored by the manner in which the artists are listed. Nothing is indicated about each except his or her name and birth year. Those dates reveal that except for the lone female, Posenenske, born in 1930 (and thus thirty-seven at the time), all were youthful males born between 1939 and 1945 and between twenty-two and twenty-eight years of age. The precedents set here for so many works in ensuing years is a powerful indicator of the importance of 19:45-21:55.

Arte Povera

Germano Celant succinctly characterized these international developments when he announced in his first statement about Arte Povera: "What has happened is that the commonplace has entered the sphere of art. The insignificant has begun to exist—indeed, it has imposed itself. Physical presence and behavior have become art." Linking (among others) "a film by Warhol. . . a sculpture by Pascali . . .[and] a theater script by Grotowsky," the Italian critic thereby made a connection between Pop Art's soup cans or a man filmed sleeping for twelve hours and Pino Pascali's (1935-1968) cubes of earth then on view in Arte Povera48 And the two united in the Pop artist Oldenburg's act of excavation for an exhibition.

Arte Povera at Galleria La Bertesca and the Instituto di storia dell'arte, in Genoa, presents another European correspondence to American earth art, and it was, coincidentally, on view concurrently with Oldenburg's act.49 Literally meaning, "poor art," Arte Povera more generally refers to artists' use of simple, unrefined materials to explore basic substances and physical processes or to emphasize a connection to everyday life. Celant, at the time a young Genoese critic, identified, named, and made Arte Povera famous and, in doing so, become well known along with it. He conceived the Italian artists' use of these lowly materials as a kind of rebellion against the aestheticization of high art as a decorative object from which both the artist and the consumer are emotionally detached. The prominently "poor" materiality challenged viewers to a more engaged and authentic response to art and to life. "Univocality belongs to the individual and not to 'his' image or his products. This is a new attitude aimed at regaining possession of a 'real' control of being. It leads the artist to shift his position continuously, to throw off the cliché that society has attached to him. The artist, who was exploited before, now becomes a guerrilla warrior."50

Pascali's works in Arte Povera were Un metri cubi di terra [One-meter cube of earth] and Due metri cubi di terra [Two-meter cube of earth] ., smooth and precisely rectangular bricks of rich uniform soil projecting horizontally from the gallery wall. Thus a basic entity of nature, earth, had been compressed into a machined-looking mold as if a construction or architectural element. These had first been shown a few months earlier, along with Pascali's large, low, square-gridded trough filled with water 9m2 of Puddles, in Rome in the June 1967 exhibition Fire, Image, Water, Earth. Arte Povera scholar Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has described this group show, organized by Fabio Sargentini at his L'Attico Gallery, as "the first exhibition to focus on the relationship between the natural and the artificial, and to present a coherent selection of works made from natural elements."51

Also at L'Attico that year, Jannis Kounellis exhibited four low varnished iron troughs containing earth and cacti Untitled (1967). In his muscular language, Celant wrote of them: "Pascali and Kounellis bring to the altar-stone the material quality of physical reality. Physical presence dissimulates itself and makes its importance known merely by being. Pascali's cubes of earth and his sea are facts of earth and water. They are natural synecdoches in a natural world."52 The unadorned realism of the Arte Povera materials and works has also been attributed to a major economic downturn in Italy. Christov-Bakargiev observed, "By the mid 1960s, economic recession had set in, and the 'Italian miracle' [of postwar industrialization and economic growth] was over. The mood shifted from optimism to skepticism and a sense of precariousness."53

These European artistic phenomena, manifesting numerous parallels to issues and materials being explored by American artists through Earthworks and other postminimalist forms, were, in late 1967, largely unknown in the United States.54 Thus Oldenburg's excavation of Central Park soil coincided with the very early beginnings of the use of natural materials internationally, while his use of the term earthworks in his notes for his Hole specifically connected it to projects already in process by Smithson and Morris. Characteristic of Oldenburg's particular strategy of Pop satire—inversion—the structure of his simple lateral depression negated the bold erections conventional to both traditional statuary and the expansive steel abstractions becoming customary for outdoor urban sites. Here, instead of a statue extending upward, he created a space for a body to lie down in. The passive orientation of its horizontal, ground-level alignment is suggested by its official title in the catalogue, the innocuous Placid Civic Monument. Ironically, its size even contradicts his own and his contemporaries' propensity for large-scale works. Whereas Sandler asserted that the "main [reason]" for the exhibition's works' "enormous size . . . appears to be a will to grandeur—a desire for monumentality, not of size alone but of the kind of scale that causes forms to appear larger than they are,"55 Oldenburg created instead a "life size" work: the trench's six-foot length could accommodate a taller than average male of northern European ancestry, which, at six feet tall, he himself is.

But Oldenburg put this artistic reversal to the service of reformulating subject matter as well as sculptural form. He commented to a reporter, "It really is an underground sculpture. I think of it as the dirt being loosened from the sides in a certain section of Central Park. It is a sculpture involved with its whole surroundings—baseball games, lovers, squirrels, worms, a helicopter passing overhead. I grew up in the area and loved it as a child." Oldenburg subsequently recalled that " the site, the area that I had chosen, was very close to the obelisk Cleopatra's Needle ,which I remember from childhood—I used to play there. I thought that was a great monument. So I figured: Why should I put up a monument when that one is already there?"56

Morphologically, the two forms are complementary: a projecting pillar and a recessed rectangle, together suggesting the duality of male and female genitalia. Oldenburg's film of the digging and re-filling of this hole emphasizes that. Made with a handheld camera and including lots of fast sweeping movements creating diagonal blurs, the film regularly returns to clearly focused pans up and down the obelisk's shaft. Correspondingly, the materials of each form exemplify age-old social conventions of associating the male with constructions upon the earth, or broadly, culture, and the female with the earth itself, with the unformed ground or with the rhythmic fecundity of nature. These polarized allusions are corroborated by others within his random notes on this piece. Expressing the traditional conception of nature as gendered female, they include the phrases "It was Virgin ground, the Digger commented" and "Inside the body of the Earth." His identification with the masculine position is evident: "This thing we broke like a wound on the Sunday a.m. . ." "I felt great excitement at the moment of first incision of the shovel. The first shovelful was surprisingly red and accounted 'virgin' by the diggers."

In another example of Oldenburg's manifestation of attitudes of the period, the artist conveyed distinct ambivalence toward nature. On the one hand, earth is of little worth, it is Central Park topsoil and of no value as a fine art material. His men aggressively dug into it and created a "wound." On the other, the earth has been traditionally subject to humanistic projection, specifically gendered female, whether as fertile Mother Earth or as uncultivated virgin earth. While viewing cultivated Central Park as "this sacred ground, this poor, grubby, beat-up sacred ground," in his journal, he also expressed some anxiety at doing this, noting, "This is the first clean dirt I've had my hand in New York, and it took enormous pressure for me to rupture the surface and get my hands clean-dirty with the damp red soil under the soot superstructure."

The actual environmental disruption of landscaping and ecology was in fact slight. More significant is the attitude this artistic act exemplifies. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) had sparked the beginnings of the general public's interest in protecting natural systems from damage by technological processes. But it would not be until well into the 1970s that there was widespread questioning of the prevalent anthropocentrism that views the human species as superior to all others, and nature as "other" and subject to domination, rather than a living system of which humans are only one element. In the later 1960s, this ambivalence would also underlie the attraction to, and artistic colonization of, remote wilderness sites for large-scale acts of sculptural manipulation.

Another reference Oldenburg made to a "wound" was his written statement that he wanted his Colossal Block of Concrete Inscribed with Names of War Heroes (1965), "to be like a wound in the city."57 But the mortal connotations of that injury call up the other sort of association to his Hole's geometric cavity, a grave site. Toward the beginning of Oldenburg's oft-cited personal manifesto are the statements

I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap and still comes out on top.
I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.
I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.58
Here, Oldenburg's monument, in size and proportion "tak[ing] its form from the lines of life itself" (that of a six-foot body), figures death, an extremity of "everyday crap." It is a theme that Oldenburg had addressed previously, but never so directly. Precedent memorial proposals include Statue of Death (1965) derived from Lorado Taft's Statue of Death, in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, Ghost Wardrobe (for M.M.), 1967, shown at the Sidney Janis Gallery's Homage to Marilyn Monroe exhibition in December 1967, the Sullivan Tomb, a spatial play on the broom closet where the architect Louis Sullivan slept at the end of his life, and Memorial to Pinetop Smith (1967), for the Chicago intersection where the inventor of boogie-woogie was killed. About his proposal for a memorial to Adlai Stevenson (1967), he wrote, "Death on the street entered my mind probably through such a death of a friend in 1966. He went out for a walk as he always did in the evening. He had a heart attack and died in the street. I found myself living near the spot where A.S. died such a death, and the little monument idea took form as a modest monument to him in that spot."59 Another person he knew who had died in 1966 was the poet and Museum of Modern Art curator Frank O'Hara. Between May and July 1967 Oldenburg had worked on drawings for the group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in November 1967 honoring O'Hara.60

Nevertheless, the diversity of Oldenburg's memorials, created over a period of a few years, suggests a general fascination with death rather than mourning for specific individuals. These losses may have accentuated what Oldenburg has described as his own sensitivity to melancholy or expressionistic moods: "After all, I don't come out of Matisse or the sunny concept of art. I come out of Goya, Rouault, parts of Dubuffet, Bacon the Humanist and existentialist imagists, the Chicago bunch, and that sets me apart from the whole Hofmann-influenced school (who would maintain that I am set off from art, this being New York!). I find it natural to move toward poets, troubled lives, darkness, mystery."61 In regard to Hole, he notes specifically "The grave connotations were difficult to avoid and certainly were encouraged."

Other issues make the funerary allusion especially pertinent to the mid-1960s. The Hole's Central Park site was also proximate to the Metropolitan Museum, suggesting a connection. In an article published earlier in the year, Smithson had equated the two, stating, "Museums are tombs, and it looks like everything is turning into a museum. Painting, sculpture, and architecture are finished, but the art habit continues."62 So one could construe Oldenburg's Hole as the Metropolitan Museum's "other" or opposite entity, as "a grave for dead art."63 More specifically, the ascendancy of sculpture led to hyperbolic declarations that the convention of fine art painting on a stretched, rectangular canvas and sold as a valuable object to a wealthy member of the Establishment was obsolete or "dead." Oldenburg corroborates this in a statement that, akin to the Hebrew custom regarding sacred figures does not name or spell out the divine form: "P . . . . . . g, which has slept so long / in its gold crypts / in its glass graves / is asked out / to go for a swim / is given a cigarette / a bottle of beer / . . ."64 Within a few years, the earth art sculptor Michael Heizer would declare that "only a real primitive would make something as icon-like, as obviously pagan as a painting. I worked all those years painting and now I'm critical of the fact that I won't allow myself to do those mindless things any more. It looks at though the whole spirit of painting and sculpture could be shrugged off, in two years' time perhaps."65

Yet for the social realist provocateur that Oldenburg is, refutation of the institution of art collecting—which was supporting him very well—would seem less the point than engaging with the body politic. Four years earlier the assassination of President Kennedy had shattered the nation. Violent death was in the news headlines daily from multiple sources: abroad, the Vietnam War, and at home, social unrest incited by war protests, the civil rights movement, and frustration in urban ghettoes with President Johnson's War on Poverty. By early September 1967, four hundred sixty-four thousand American troops were in Vietnam and thirteen thousand Americans had died. On the Sunday morning that Oldenburg went to Central Park to direct the excavation for Hole, the headline in the New York Times read, "At Embattled Conthien, the Marines Dig Deeper." The report from Vietnam stated, "The numbers who have been blown away [by closely bursting North Vietnamese shells] in recent days has been small, as the marines have learned to dig deeper into the mud. . . . Cot Conthien has maintained its reputation as the worse place to be in Vietnam."66 There, digging was an act of military self-protection.

With this heavy an investment in Vietnam, the U.S. budget could not simultaneously sustain the plethora of Great Society programs, and in August 1967 Congress belatedly curtailed the expansionist economics of the sixties by mandating a temporary 10 percent surcharge on corporate and private income tax. Even so, Congress resolved to reduce social welfare and education programs rather than hamper its commitment to winning the war. With military spending causing a severe international balance-of-payments deficit and a weak dollar, by early 1968 the decline of what has been termed the decade's "growth liberalism" was underway.67 Against this deteriorating economy, the traditional parent-child generation gap in values and interests was exaggerated by the disproportionate numbers of baby-boom youth, many of whom identified with the counterculture. Oldenburg himself termed his Sculpture in Environment project, "an anti-authoritarian personal act."

A year later, concurrent with the Dwan earth works exhibition, in addressing the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, the New Left activist Tom Hayden would look back to that month and explain, "Having tried available channels and discovered them meaningless, having recognized that the establishment does not listen to public opinion . . . the New Left was moving toward confrontation. The turning point, in my opinion, was October 1967, when resistance became the official watchword of the antiwar movement." After quoting this, the journalist Todd Gitlin noted, "'Available channels' having apparently failed, much of the New Left set out to dig its own trenches, or grave."68

The conjunction of art, grave, politics, and war recalls a famous precedent open grave, prominent in Gustave Courbet's painting Burial at Ornans (1849). The French Realist painter depicted the funeral of a distant relative, the first to be buried in the new location of the village cemetery for Ornans in Burgundy after national sanitary laws enacted after the French Revolution required it to be moved from the center of town adjacent to the church.69 The scale of the painting's mural or environmental size, approximately ten feet high by twenty-two feet long, in effect monumentalizes the country burial of Claude-Etienne Teste (1765-1848), a local small landowner who grew grapes. During the French Revolution, Teste had been a liberal in favor of the Republic, and part of a group of subversive cultivators. The recent national French elections of 1848 had returned to power political conservatives. An insurrection by radicals was crushed by three days of bloody street fighting. The two men standing to the right of the open grave wear attire from the late eighteenth century and gesture toward it as if mourning not only the death of a friend but also their shared hopes for more political freedom.70 In both Courbet's and Oldenburg's graves, as Celant put it, "Day-to-day naturalness, unmasked, is violated in its taboo of triviality."71

In the summer 1967 issue of Arts, Oldenburg had published an article "America: War and Sex, Etc." In a spirit of free association, and in language veering from poetic to pidgin English, he commented on those two themes in life and in his own artistic process: "I have begun to keep, among the notes I turn to, scattered, unpredictably located, faces of the mutilated, or the Polaroid of my granduncle at the last living point of death. These throw me off my search. I stumble around the studio as result, forgetting what simple and efficient thing I wanted. We are so poorly educated in Death. We can only dish it out. . . ."72 Oldenburg's Hole, made a few months after that issue came out, exemplifies both elements in the article's title: war (it is a trench in which to "dig in" and protect oneself or, if one succumbs, a grave site) and sex (the vaginal "wound").

Three weeks after Oldenburg's Monument was dug and refilled, on October 21 and 22, more than one hundred thousand Americans came together in Washington, D.C., for the march on the Pentagon.73 Whether as a sanctuary or a grave, Oldenburg's Hole in the Central Park earth exemplifies his notebook remark, "Grave is a perfect (anti) war monument, like saying no more." At the conclusion of his notes on The Hole, in a defense against a simple-minded view of his piece as light-hearted whimsy, Oldenburg again referred to its dual references in a double entendre: "The BM (Burial Monument) is not frivolous. In fact, it is a frightening introduction to a year of burials (don't be melodramatic). One hopes that all climaxes will not come at once."

Oldenburg, not an originary figure for Earthworks, nor even a precedent conceptualizer of it, coalesced in his grave site a spectrum of current debates that would pertain to that genre of environmental sculpture and to a time in which nature was, very prominently but nonetheless ambiguously, becoming culture. His Hole constituted an eruption of morality, and of life—even in its representation as its end state, death—into the aesthetics of abstract monuments. Significantly, when this art object was finished, the spatial recession was empty. William Bryant Logan observed, "An open grave is an open mouth. It disturbs the soil, throwing the wet cold subsoil to the surface. It exhales all the suggestion of the dark. But a grave is also the place where the foul is made fair. It is the way that flesh returns to the generative womb."74 Without a burial of a time capsule or hidden treasure, the interior hollow of the grave remains open to multiple associations, just as the container itself was both significant as itself and conterminous with the world. Oldenburg stated: "By not burying a thing the dirt enters into the concept, and little enough separates the dirt inside the excavation from that outside . . . so that the whole park and its connections, in turn, enter into it. Which means that my event is merely the focus for me (on the one hand) of what is sensed, or in the corner of a larger field . . ."

 

Notes

Chapter One. October 1967: A Corner of a Larger Field

The epigraph is quoted from Barbara Haskell, Claes Oldenburg: Object into Monument, exh. cat. (Pasadena, Calif.: Pasadena Art Museum, 1971).

1. Clement Meadmore, "Thoughts on Earthworks, Random Distribution, Softness, Horizontality and Gravity," Arts 43, no. 4 (February 1969): 28.

2. August Heckscher, Foreword, Sculpture in Environment, exh. cat. (New York: New York City Administration of Recreation and Cultural Affairs, 1967), n.p.

3. Lincoln Center was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks, and the Parks Commissioner, Newbold Morris, "at first refused the Calder because of his dislike of abstract art." The New York City Art Commission must approve works of art before they are permanently placed on public property in the city, and Heckscher "personally telephoned all the members of the Commission and told them they would be laughed out of town if they voted down the two sculptures" (Harriet Senie, Contemporary Public Sculpture: Tradition, Transformation, and Controversy [New York: Oxford University Press, 1992], 108, 251 n. 46).

4. Barbara Rose lamented that "certainly the bathetic Henry Moore lounging like a great melancholy behemoth in the plaza of Lincoln Center is a perfect example of a work executed on an inappropriate scale, although its vacuity is probably a perfect symbol of the committee taste that selected it" (Barbara Rose, "Blow Up—The Problem of Scale in Sculpture," Art in America 56, no. 4 [July-August 1968]: 85-86). Lawrence Alloway concluded that "the problem is to get art on the new scale out of the project stage into the realm of objects and events (without littering up the world with bigger Henry Moores and Sandy Calders)" (Lawrence Alloway, "Christo and the New Scale," Art International 7, no. 7 [September 1968]: 57).

5. Michael Benedikt, "Sculpture as Architecture, New York Letter 1966-67," in Gregory Battcock, ed., Minimal Art (New York: Dutton, 1968), 89. Benedikt's commentaries were originally published in several issues of Art International.

6. Hilton Kramer, "Art: A Sculpture Show in Bryant Park," New York Times, 2 February 1967, sec. C, p. 32.

7. "Above all, the large scale of much current sculpture seems inspired by the 'environmental' scale of American painting, although it would be a simplification to claim that the change in scale in sculpture had no other causes. Certainly one of the factors that has contributed to making large scale endemic in new sculpture is the demand on the part of American institutions as diverse as banks, churches, museums, schools, airports and municipalities for impressive, monumental objects to decorate their premises and enhance their images" (Rose, "Blow Up," 83).

8. From 1963 to 1966, forty-four works of art including murals and stained-glass panels as well as sculpture were designed as integral parts of federal buildings, "each funded by up to one-half of one percent of construction costs" (Don Hawthorne, "Does the Public Want Public Sculpture?" ArtNews 81, no. 5 [May 1982]: 59).

9. John Wetenhall, "Camelot's Legacy to Public Art: Aesthetic Ideology in the New Frontier," in Harriet Senie and Sally Webster, eds., Critical Issues in Public Art (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 147. On the subsequent policy of the General Services Administration, see Donald W. Thalacker, The Place of Art in the World of Architecture (New York: Chelsea House), 1980.

10. Brian O'Doherty, "Public Art and the Government: A Progress Report," Art in America 62, no. 3 (May-June 1974): 44.

11. Sam Green, Foreword, Art for the City, exh. cat. (Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, 1967), n.p.

12. Charles Ginnever, interview by author, 4 August 1994.

13. Irving Sandler, Introduction, Sculpture in Environment, exh. cat. (New York: New York City Administration of Recreation and Cultural Affairs, 1967), n.p.

14. Until the end of 1997, David Smith's Zig IV (1961) remained in its interior site adjacent to the northern glass wall of the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center, and Alamo (1961) by Bernard Rosenthal, the huge cube still pirouetting en pointe on the traffic island at Astor Place and Eighth Street, was installed there for this show (thus preceding Isamu Noguchi's similarly balanced rhombohedron, The Red Cube [1967], designed for Marine Midland plaza on lower Broadway and installed in March 1968).

15. The drawings were collectively titled "Proposed Colossal Monuments" (see the chronology in Haskell, Claes Oldenburg, 134).

16. Barbara Rose, Claes Oldenburg, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1970), 171.

17. Grace Glueck, "Art Notes," New York Times, 15 October 1967, sec. 2, p. 22.

18. Sam Green, conversation with author, 18 January 1996.

19. Morris later created the steam piece, Untitled, (1967-1973), at the University of Washington, Bellingham.

20. Sam Green, conversation.

21. Robert E. Dallos, "Sculpture Stirs Interest, Sight Unseen," New York Times, 2 October 1967, p. 55.

22. Oldenburg's notes on Hole are in Haskell, Claes Oldenburg, 60-62. (Hole was also the title of Robert Whitman's theatrical work performed in New York City in May 1963.) In the catalogue for the Museum of Modern Art's wide-ranging topical survey show, Information, held in the summer of 1970, it is labeled The Pit.

23. Dallos, "Sculpture Stirs Interest."

24. "Turning to August Heckscher . . . Mr. Lindsey quipped: 'There'll be room for you, too, Augie, when the day comes.'" Ibid.

25. Russell Baker, "Observer: On Crying 'Art!' to an Unused Grave," New York Times, 15 October 1967, p. 10. The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 3 October 1967, p. 20. Bernard Malamud, "Pictures of Fidelman," Atlantic 222, no. 6 (December 1968): 63-70. Sandler later termed Oldenburg's so-called grave "a kind of Earthwork that is primarily conceptual. . . .Oldenburg's 'work' had a Duchampian edge; it could be considered an Assisted Ready-made" (Irving Sandler, American Art of the 1960s [New York: Harper and Row, 1988], 328.

26. Sol LeWitt, "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art," Artforum 5, no. 10 (summer 1967), 80.

27. Claes Oldenburg, quoted in Diane Waldman, "Holes without History," ArtNews 70, no. 3 (May 1971): 62.

28. Robert Smithson, "Towards the Development of an Air Terminal Site," in Jack Flam, ed., Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 56. Smithson's source for Andre's motto is not given.

29. Oldenburg, quoted in Waldman, "Holes without History, " 61.

30. Smithson, "Towards the Development," 44.

31. Oldenburg, quoted in Waldman, "Holes without History," 61. The Oldenburg studio confirmed that it was written as a single word in the journal.

32. 19:45-21:55: September 9, 1967, Frankfurt, Germany, exh. cat. (Cologne: Paul Maenz, 1967), n.p. Three years later, with the opening of his gallery, Paul Maenz Köln, Maenz established a more formal presence as a major German exponent of international conceptual art. He closed the gallery in 1990. Gerd de Vries, ed., Paul Maenz Köln 1970-1980-1990: Eine Avantgarde-Galerie und die Künst unsere Zeit/An AvantGarde Gallery and the Art of Our Time (Cologne: Dumont, 1991).

33. Paul Maenz, letters to author, 24 November 1994, 30 November 1994, and 26 April 1998.

34. Peter Selz, "Notes on Funk," Funk, exh. cat. (Berkeley, Calif.: University Art Museum, 1967), 3. This exhibition, with twenty-six participating artists, was on view from 18 April through 29 May 1967.

35.Hilary Gresty, "Introduction," 1965-1972, When Attitudes Became Form, exh. cat. (Cambridge and Edinburgh: Kettle's Yard and The Fruitmarket, 1984), 7.

36. Charles Hanson, "The Late Sixties in London and Elsewhere," 1965-1972, When Attitudes Became Form, 10.

37. "Jan Dibbets," Avalanche 1, no. 1 (1970): 37.

38. Jan Dibbets, letter to author, 20 August 1995.

39. Dibbets's piece preceded Douglas Huebler's six-hour dispersal of a rectangle of sawdust on January 5, 1969, the opening day of January 5-31, 1969, an exhibition of conceptual art in New York organized by Seth Siegelaub. Also for 19:45-21:55 Dibbets filled a recessed area in the center of the floor of the interior gallery (a trough in the former stables ten centimeters deep and about one meter wide) with water. Visitors had to hop over it to cross from one side of the space to the other.

40. 1965-1972, When Attitudes Became Form, 59; the author of the entry on Long is unspecified. This early work, of which there is no documentation, thus preceded the contemporary sculptural activities directly in the earth undertaken by anyone else. Long described it in a letter, dated 24 June 1969, to Lloyd Carter (archives, Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University).

41. Richard Long, interviewed by author, 4 February 1996.

42. That shape is similar to one independently designed by Robert Morris in late 1966 or early 1967 as his proposal for works in the fields between airport runways, a project, which Robert Smithson had brought him into, that is discussed here in chapters three and four. In a review published in March 1967, Dan Graham described Morris's maquette for a "large earth sculpture. . .nearly invisible. . .a rounded, slightly elevated, circular lozenge of sod-covered earth which is truncated by the flat plane of terrain it rests upon" ("Models and Monuments: The Plague of Architecture," Arts 41, no. 5 [March 1967]: 32).

43. Long's handwritten letter is reproduced in 19:45-21:55 (exh. cat.).

44. Flanagan's handwritten letter is reproduced in ibid.

45. Concurrently, at the Paris Biennale in September 1967, Flanagan exhibited his own pile of a naturally occurring material, One Ton Corner Piece, Sand. He had used sand before; as a stuffing, sand was more pliable, and portable, than the plaster filling he had used since 1965 for his canvas bags in the shape of vegetables and indeterminate organic shapes, but still firmer than Oldenburg's kapok-stuffed canvas sculpture, which he had seen in an exhibition in London.

Flanagan's title, One Ton Corner Piece, Sand, suggests that Richard Serra's lead plate One Ton Prop Piece (1969) was a retort. These corner piles recall the better- known Fat Corner (1963), one of Joseph Beuys's fetishes of the rustic materials he had used to warm his body after the German military plane that he was flying in during World War II crashed onto frozen tundra. The Fat Corner was shown in Beuys's first exhibition, at Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf in 1965. Both fat and sand are malleable materials, each capable of taking two very different forms: the fat liquid when heated and solid at room temperature, the sand loose when dry and solid when wet and packed. When these substances are placed across the recession of a corner, obscuring its structure, their very pliancy contradicts the architectural rigidity and dominates that space with a material sign of instability, thus challenging the institutional status quo.

46. This piece was a precedent for Morris's Continuous Project Altered Daily at the Castelli warehouse show in December 1968.

47. This piece preceded Christo's 5600 Cubic Meter Package, a helium-filled cylinder (280 inches high and 30 inches in diameter) that was exhibited at Documenta 4 in the summer of 1968.

48. Germano Celant, "Arte Povera—Im Spazio," in Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, ed., Arte Povera (London: Phaidon, 1999), 220. Translation by Paul Blanchard for Germano Celant, Arte Povera Art Povera (Milan: Electra, 1985, rev., 1998). Article originally published in Arte Povera—Im Spazio, exh. cat. (Genoa: La Bertesca/Masnata/Trentalance, 1967).

49. Arte Povera—Im Spazio, Galleria La Bertesca, Genoa (Alghiero Boetti, Luciano Fabro, Jannis Kounellis, Pino Pascali, Emilio Prini.). Arte Povera, Instituto di storia dell-arte at Genoa University (Boetti, Fabro, Kounellis, Giulio Paolini, Pascali, Prini). The two separate exhibitions were organized by Germano Celant.

50. Germano Celant, "Arte Povera: Notes for a Guerrilla War [1967]," in Christov-Bakargiev, ed., Arte Povera,194; excerpted from Celant, Arte Povera Art Povera; originally published in Flash Art, November-December 1967.

51. Christov-Bakargiev, ed., Arte Povera, 31.

52. Celant, "Arte Povera: Notes for a Guerrilla War," 221.

53. Christov-Bakargiev, Arte Povera, 23.

54. Maenz's 19:45—21:55 was not reviewed by an English-language publication and its catalogue, published within a month or so in an edition of five hundred copies, had an extremely limited distribution in the United States. Arte Povera was covered extensively in the Italian journal Flash Art, but anEnglish-language compendium of international Arte Povera, where the term embraced American, British, Dutch, and German artists, was not published in the United States until 1969.

55. Sandler, Sculpture in Environment, n.p.

56. Dallos, "Sculpture Stirs Interest"; Paul Cummings, Interview with Claes Oldenburg (Washington, D.C.: Archives of American Art/Smithsonian Institution, 1973), 286.

57. Claes Oldenburg, Proposals for Monuments and Buildings 1965-1969 (Chicago: Big Table Publishing, 1969), 25.

58. Claes Oldenburg, "I am for an art. . ." in Claes Oldenburg and Emmett Williams, Store Days: Documents from The Store, 1961, and Ray Gun Theater, 1962 (New York: Something Else Press, 1967), 39.

59. Haskell, Claes Oldenburg, 51.

60. In the summer of 1966, Frank O'Hara was killed by a beach taxi while standing on the sand late one night on Fire Island. The memorial catalogue that Oldenburg contributed to was In Memory of My Feelings (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1967).

61. Rose, "Selections from Oldenburg's Writings," Claes Oldenburg, 189.

62. Robert Smithson, "Some Void Thoughts on Museums," in Flam, Robert Smithson, 42. This article was originally published in Arts, February 1967, along with one by Allan Kaprow, under the shared title "Death in the Museum."

63. Rose, "Selections from Oldenburg's Writings," 107.

64. Claes Oldenburg, "The Artists Say," Art Voices 4, no. 3 (summer 1965): 62.

65. Liza Bear and Willoughby Sharp, "Discussions with Heizer, Oppenheim, Smithson," in Flam, Robert Smithson, 252. This compilation of interviews taped in late 1968 and early 1969 was originally published in Avalanche, no. 1 (1970).

66. New York Times, 1 October 1967, p.1. In the same issue, Grace Glueck writes, "Paul Thek made a life-size wax effigy of himself for his show at Stable Gallery. It's not a real live hippie, of course, but a life-size wax effigy (molded by Thek in his own image) serenely stretched out in a pink ziggurat 'tomb.' So realistic is the effect that gallery visitors tend to tiptoe reverentially up to the glass door of the 'tomb' and speak in whispers" ("Art Notes," New York Times, 1 October 1967, sec. D, p. 21).

67. Robert M. Collins, "Growth Liberalism in the Sixties: Great Societies at Home and Grand Designs Abroad," in David Farber, ed., The Sixties: From Memory to History (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 33.

68. Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, rev. ed. (New York: Bantam, 1987), 286.

69. In a different context, the environmental journalist William Bryant Logan points out that it is not a buried body that is toxic, but the embalming chemicals suffusing it and preventing its natural decomposition into humus. William Bryant Logan, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth (New York: Riverhead , 1995), 58.

70.Celant, "Arte Povera: Notes for a Guerrilla War, " 221.

71. In addition to thematic similarities, there is an uncanny parallel between the place of Oldenburg's and Courbet's renderings of graves within each artist's oeuvre. While Oldenburg had been exhibiting sculpture for at least seven years, this anti-Monument was his first work for an outdoor public realm and its anti-monument aspect amounted to a statement of his attitude toward that. Courbet wrote that "The Burial . . . was my beginning and my statement of principles." And it has been argued the "the setting and society depicted in the Burial represent the context in which Courbet's social, political, and artistic viewpoints were first formed . . ." (Claudette R. Mainzer, "Who is Buried at Ornans?" in Sarah Faunce and Linda Nochlin, eds., Courbet Reconsidered, exh. cat. [New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1988], 77). This could also be said of Oldenburg.

72. Claes Oldenburg, "America: War and Sex, Etc.," Arts 41, no. 8 (summer 1967): 34. In this article he also plays around with the notion that his initials, C. O., stand for Conscientious Objector."

73. Tom Wells, The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 195.

74. Logan, Dirt, 54.

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