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In the late 1960s, a limited number of artists, especially from New York, United States, left the classical settings of the workshop, gallery and museum, to work directly in nature, or introduce natural elements into museums. According to GillesTiberghien, this new Land Art can be defined as "a moment in the history of contemporary art, situated at the crossroads of modernism and with what has been challenged, battled, or replaced". This trend is not exclusive to the American continent. In Europe, particularly in England, Holland and France, artists have been pursuing this new environmental trend. Therefore, Land Art or Earth Works denote works performed in a natural setting.

It is neither a style nor a school, much less a movement; the members of Land Art vary in their approach to space and in the creation of their works. The feature that could unite them is that they have recourse to a number of documents to explain their creations, the latter being too remote or destroyed quickly, so that they are invisible to the public.

At first, it will be useful to study the evolution of art between 1960 and 1970 to understand the aesthetic and philosophical movement that prompted land artists to embrace this trend. Then, an overview of the major Land Art artists will be necessary, followed by an analysis of the original art works of Walter de Maria and Richard Long, both of them very different from each other. This new art concept, land art, is often identified with the "ecological art".

Since World War II, artists have been increasingly eager for commitment and action in their work. This young generation is eager to claim original modes of expression via paintings, to break free of traditional art which is rather provincial in nature. America now enjoys technological supremacy throughout the world. This statement is accompanied by an intellectual, moral and cultural development, allowing many artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko or Frank Stella, to give free rein to their art.

It is within this social and political context that the New York School is set up, mainly around abstract expressionism. The evolution of this new school seems inseparable from three major events in the history of contemporary art: the arrival of the surrealists headed by André Breton, the opening of the Peggy Guggenheim gallery in 1942, and support of the art critic Clement Greenberg.

Emphasis on artistic purity and liberation of the unconscious and improvisation are placed as fundamental in the minds of artists of the time. The New York artists borrow from the theory of automation to the surrealists. The art is then identified in this process of purification, "each art tending towards its own essence to coincide with its unique medium." Modernism is there, rejecting any previous stylistic, formal, technical method; the experiment should help span the entire artistic tradition, to achieve and define a pure art, perfect and free from any external constraints; the modernist movement clearly resolved many artistic disputes.

Tags: Modernism, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Peggy Guggenheim gallery, ecological art

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