MUDDY HEAVEN, his sixteenth solo show with the gallery since his first in 1976. Richard Long’s art is grounded in his direct engagement with the landscape, extending the possibilities of sculpture beyond traditional materials and methods by using the earth as both subject and medium. This presentation will span four floors of the gallery featuring a large, site-specific mud work, text works and flint sculpture.
The show takes its title, MUDDY HEAVEN, from the large work in the main gallery that scales the 29-foot high wall from the ground floor to mezzanine level. Applying mud directly by hand, Long will make six large, parallel bands stacked atop one another, forming the Chinese I Ching hexagram for heaven, a powerful symbol. While the ascending bands of River Avon mud draw the eye upward, the watery drips and splashes caused by gravity pull the eye back down to Earth. Long describes his work “as a complementary balance between strong ideas and images and also spontaneous primitive mark making.”
Long’s text pieces demarcate space as much as his physical sculpture. On the first and fourth floors, the artist presents four text works that narrate his outdoor walks and experiences, such as Dartmoor Walk(s) (2017) from his nine day walk in the United Kingdom’s Dartmoor National Park. Often recording a diary of phenomena along the way, Long’s walks can be both a physical and intellectual pleasure, an ideal means for him to explore relationships between time, distance, geography and measurement. The artist’s text works extend the solitude of his experiences, documenting his physical passage through the landscape. Collectively, they reflect on how the art is rooted in Long’s love of nature and the revolutionary implications of using walking as a medium. Unlike purely conceptual artworks which may exist as ideas or proposals, these text works relate to, in the artist’s words, “real stones, real time, real actions.”
On the third floor, Long will make a sculpture of flint sourced from Norfolk, England, installed in a river-like line. Highlighting the relationship between nature and man, Long uses knapped stone to reveal the irregular black and white patterns hidden beneath the raw flint’s pure white surface. Long has said, “you could say that my work is [...] a balance between the patterns of nature and the formalism of human, abstract ideas like lines and circles. It is where my human characteristics meet the natural forces and patterns of the world, and that is really the kind of subject of my work.”