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The 'land art' of Andrew Rogers

Australian sculptor brings a rare civic vision to his geoglyphs the world over.

By Carol StricklandContributor to The Christian Science Monitor / May 12, 2009

Australian artist Andrew Rogers's 2008 work, Sacred, adorns 1,000 square meters of Slovakian landscape with travertine marble. He has built on five continents over the past 10 years.

Courtesy of Andrew Rogers

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Australian sculptor Andrew Rogers has rocks in his head. "I talk about rocks in the morning," he admits, "and I talk about rocks when I go to bed." He also does a good bit of heaving them about, for rocks are his chosen material in building 32 monumental land-art works on five continents over the past 10 years.

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Lilly Wei, curator of "Odysseys and Sitings," an exhibition of photographs of Rogers's projects running until May 13 at the nonprofit gallery White Box, says, "Andrew – well, he thinks large."

"Large" is an understatement. Rogers makes geoglyphs, piling up tens of thousands of tons of stones up to 14 feet high to outline stylized shapes. His forms cover 430,000 square feet, the largest contemporary land-art project in

the world. The sculptor uses walls of rock to "draw" a spread-wing eagle the size of a football field in Australia, a lion in Sri Lanka, a llama in Bolivia, a labyrinth in Nepal, and a Celtic horse in Slovakia. To what end? "I want these to become a fulcrum for contemplation about what's important," he says, specifying "the values we need to take forward to have a wholesome society."

"Andrew's projects are appealingly, profoundly quixotic, a combination of life and art, installation and performance, altruism and self-fulfillment," according to Ms. Wei, writing in a new book on the work, "Andrew Rogers: Geoglyphs, Rhythms of Life."

Public-art expert Eleanor Heartney, who contributed an essay to the book, says: "What interested me was the sheer ambition of the project and the way it connects to the larger context of human history and art history."

Earthworks go back to prehistory with Ohio's bulging Great Serpent Mound and Peru's Nazca lines, an inspiration for Rogers, incised into the earth in the shape of animals, visible only from high above. Then 40 years ago, American artists like Michael Heizer and Robert Smithson (known for his "Spiral Jetty" at Utah's Great Salt Lake) bulldozed and gouged forms on the Western landscape using earth and boulders.

Rogers differs from these artists in the collaborative nature of his work, involving crews of 5,000 local workers. Wei calls the geoglyphs not only "a real public art project" but "a public works project," which changes the lives of the employees. "It's a temporary micro-industry. These are poor places, and the work made an extreme difference."