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Richard Long [PDF] ✩ Richard Long By Dieter Roelstraete – In 1967 Richard Long then twenty two years old and a student at Saint Martin's School of Art in London walked back and forth along a straight line in the grass in the English countryside leaving a tra In Richard Long then twenty two years old and a student at Saint Martin's School of Art in London walked back and forth along a straight line in the grass in the English countryside leaving a track that he then photographed in black and white The resulting work A Line Made by Walking was not only the starting point for Long's career as an artist but also a landmark for a new kind of art emerging in Europe and the Americas Although A Line Made by Walking is an instantly recognizable work no detailed analysis of this foundational piece has yet been published At a time when Richard Long's career is being celebrated and reassessed this study by writer and curator Dieter Roelstraete could not be timely.

2 thoughts on “Richard Long

  1. J M J M says:

    I liked the idea of this book series each one focused on a single work of art; and I was keen to read this book on Richard Long’s A Line Made by Walking because I have been interested in Long’s work for some time and particularly in this piece one of his earliest and one which seems to encapsulate much of the work to follow But the book doesn’t uite match up to my expectationsIt is not a concentrated study of this one piece but of a general introduction to Long’s work It situates him with mid 20th century conceptual artists such as Ruscha and the Fluxus movement and land artists such as Robert Smithson while making clear that his art cannot be uite as neatly pigeon holed A distinctive aspect throughout Long’s career has been his exploration of walking as an art form a feature which justifies a substantial section of this short book on the history of walking as cultural artefact dating back perhaps dubiously to the ‘peripatetic’ Greek philosophers and revived in 18th and 19th century Europe by philsophers such as Rousseau and Kant by poets such as Wordsworth and Baudelaire and by gardeners who started to introduce paths into the parks of the great English houses of the day thus beginning the fashion for walking as a leisure activity It should however be said that much of this section summarises the early chapters of Wanderlust Rebecca Solnit’s history of walking adding little new material If Wordsworth and Capability Brown can be considered distant ancestors of Long’s work recent artists such as Brouwn or Debord’s situationists can be regarded as immediate antecedents while Nauman Acconci and Calle are contemporaries concerned with repetition and randomness which parallel some aspects of Long’s work but differ in that their walks take place in the city while Long almost always chooses to walk in rural or wilderness environmentsThe book usefully outlines some of the key themes of Long’s work the emphasis on process rather than product on absence and the emphemeral and to the re evaluation of the everyday as well as possible obliue references to emerging environmental concerns and a critiue of consumerism The influence of earlier minimalist works in different media – particularly Rauschenberg’s all white canvases Cage’s 4’33” and Nam June Paik’s Zen for Film – and of the use of repetition as illustrated by the work of Warhol or Beckett provide a context for the formal and abstract dimensions But still most of this discussion is framed in relation to Long’s work generally than specifically to A Line Made by Walking – although one could explore all of these ideas in some detail in the context of this one workFor Roelstraete the key uestion to examine in relation to A Line Made by Walking is what the art consists of Is it the walking which created the line or the line itself a line made when Long walked repeatedly backwards and forwards across a field until the grass had been trampled down sufficiently for the line to show up temporarily in contrast? Or is it the record of this activity in this case the photograph which Long took of the line? Long has said that the various types of records he makes of his walks are not to be considered the art itself They should be seen as documentation of art works which may have been so ephemeral as to have disappeared very shortly after being made or else so remote as not to be seen in situ by anyone other than the artist himsef Here however the discussion centres on the photograph Long’s black and white photograph of the line is not of high uality He took it with a small camera and had the photograph developed at a chemist’s shop Roelstraete implies that Long had little concern for the composition by noting that there was another photograph in which the line appears horizontally rather than vertically; and he notes an element of serendipity in the production of the photograph in that the sun came out at the time when the photograph was taken enabling much greater contrast to have been achieved than might otherwise have been the case Despite this seemingly ad hoc approach to photographing the line it too reflects contemporary developments in the art world Roelstraete notes first the role that photography had begun to play in documenting performance art and secondly to the liberation of photograph in the mid 20th century from a concern with being considered a fine art allowing photographs of amateur uality to take on the valued uality of authenticity In the last paragraph of this essay the work itself finally comes into view as Roelstraete draws attention to what distinguishes Long’s photograph and the work it represents from other conceptual land or performance art works of the time Each of the critical ualities he distinguishes – an elegiac rather than an indifferent response to the environment the focus on the ephemeral rather than the unconsidered the authentic action of the artist rather than the fictions of other art performances – could have led to much extensive discussion of this work as could the unexpected and disturbing uestion with which the essay ends Instead I am left to to wonder how a straight line traced in a featureless field continues to provoke such meandering

  2. Bobby Bobby says:

    A treasure Roelstraete explores how early Land Artists Long in particular challenged the context of art outside the gallery walls Here as in much of Long's work bodily performative action is only the beginning of the work itself Photography or some form of documentation also play in to the work's lasting impression

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