Ah, Stonehenge. Impressive, admittedly, yes. But wouldn’t the whole thing be so much prettier had those ancient Druids injected those enormous rocks with some…. colour? Enter renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, who has done precisely that – not in Wiltshire, but in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Situated a few miles south of Las Vegas, Seven Magic Mountains is an al fresco public exhibition comprising seven gigantic totems, each standing 30-35ft tall, constructed entirely out of brightly coloured day-glow boulders, each locally sourced, each weighing up to 60,000lbs. The project was co-produced by Art Production Fund, New York, and Nevada Museum of Art, Reno.
Pink on top of red on top of orange on top of yellow sits beside yellow on top of blue on top of white on top of pink sitting next to blue on top of black on top of silver beside orange on top of yellow on top of green on top of blue on top of pink on top of red. Seven Magic Mountains is a rich cacophony of luminescent colour surrounded by arid plains, copper mountains and dusty skies. It is a loud shriek in an otherwise noiseless landscape.
One of the largest land-based art installations the world has seen for 40 years, Seven Magic Mountains is visible across the desert landscape along Interstate 15, and will be for the next two years. Respectable innings, considering it took a small army of artistic engineers, technicians, project managers, consultants and heavy lifters five years to complete Rondinone’s robust, 33-bouldered vision from conception. And how did they do it? One preposterously heavy painted boulder at a time. One boulder at a time.
According to Rondinone, the location is exactly mid-way between the natural and the artificial, both physically and symbolically: nature expressed by the mountain ranges, desert, and Jean Dry Lake backdrop, artifice by the constant thrum of highway traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
This sort of supersized creation is nothing new for Rondinone; the New York based European found fame in 2013 with his striking installation Human Nature outside Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, a collection of huge stone figures each standing up to 20ft tall, each weighing 30,000lbs.
Rondinone’s need to free his art from the imprisoning confines of gallery walls and place it within the world itself is a motif running through his work. He needs art to be experienced, to be felt, rather than merely viewed. ‘I do believe in the spirituality of art’, he says. ‘You don’t have to understand art, but you have to feel it.’
Ugo Rondinone: Seven Magic Mountains, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2016.
Photos by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Courtesy of Art Production Fund and Nevada Museum of Art.