The long-awaited Seven Magic Mountains art installation debuts in the desert—Vegas style.
The final product is as colorful as it is daring.
In 1962 Swiss artist Jean Tinguely arrived in Las Vegas, assembled sculptural contraptions with items from a local dump, then exploded them with dynamite in Jean Dry Lake, just 30 minutes south of Las Vegas proper. The site-specific art piece, Study for an End of the World No. 2, drew national journalists to document the event. And although the art piece was gone nearly as quickly as it arrived, the artist’s sardonic commentary on pervasive material culture would live on in art history.
Six years later and in the same lake bed, land artist Michael Heizer arrived to create a zigzagging trench in the earth titled Rift 1, an uneven abstract drawing that was part of his Nine Nevada Depressions series. It would fall to the elements over time.
Now in 2016, travelers are pulling off Interstate 15 to get a closer look at the massive, primitive-looking rock totems painted Day-Glo colors just erected near the same dry lake, a contemporary art installation critiquing Las Vegas-style simulacra by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.
Set in a vista of Mojave browns, the candy colors of Seven Magic Mountains scream from the landscape in hot-pink, yellow, orange, and green. It’s bewitching and splendorous, a joyful assault on the vista on the vista, offering a commentary on faux reality and dazzling its viewers.
The seven stacks of painted boulders, each weighing around 40,000 pounds, stand 30 feet tall just off Las Vegas Boulevard (10 miles south of St. Rose Parkway), a mammoth testament to the reality of the unnatural in contemporary society.
Coproduced by Reno’s Nevada Museum of Art and New York’s Art Production Fund, the $3.5 million project sitting on public land will be removed in two years, and all trace of it (including the parking space) will be gone. One of the totems will become part of the MGM Resorts International art collection. Aria is one of the project’s major donors.
But before that happens, millions will experience it, in passing or up close, some even making pilgrimages. With Seven Magic Mountains, Rondinone is paying homage to the area’s land art history. In addition to Jean Dry Lake, Nevada is home to Heizer’s Double Negative in Overton, where two 50-foot deep trenches, each 30-feet wide, were cut into the earth measuring 1,500 feet long.
Heizer is also now four decades into his massive earthwork in Lincoln County, City, which stretches for more than a mile and is designed to last centuries.
“Michael Heizer,” the exhibit, runs through August 13 at MCQ Fine Art Advisory (702-366-9339), touching on the spectrum of Nevada land art (775-329-3333), a story in which Rondinone now takes his place.