Bristol-born artist Sir Richard Long is regarded as a significant driver of Land Art and Conceptual art. His early 'Earthworks' and 'walking works' challenged the boundaries of sculpture and performance art, while exploring alternative frameworks for understanding the natural world, art, and the immaterial gesture.Read More
From 1962 to 1965, Long studied at Bristol's West of England College of Art. From 1966 to 1968, he studied at Saint Martin's School of Art in London under the tutelage of Anthony Caro and Phillip King.
Richard Long has worked across performance, photography, sculpture, installation, drawing, and text. Incorporating natural materials such as clay, mud, stone, wood, or slate, Long explores the imprint of the body in the context of the environment, a process which has seen the artist travel across the world including to the U.S., U.K., Asia, Africa, Europe, and Antarctica.
The artist has stated: '... these sculptures have explored transience, permanence, visibility and recognition. A sculpture may be moved, dispersed or carried. Stones can be used as markers of time or distance, or exist as parts of a huge, yet anonymous, sculpture.'
While studying at Saint Martin's School of Art, Long developed A Line Made by Walking (1967), a performative work in which the artist carved a path in grass with his feet and photographed the resulting imprint. Long's line served as the prototype for what would become an enduring series of walking works that considered action, distance, and time as radical new mediums for art.
On A Line Made by Walking, Jonathan Griffin wrote for Frieze: 'The economy of the work – not just its frugality, but its sealed system of effort and effect, time invested and contained, information withheld and revealed – brings it close to a kind of holistic perfection. It appeals to our contemporary concern for ecological sustainability (however symbolic), and is, in its quiet way, rather humorous about what an art work might consist of.'
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Long continued exploring the dynamic between making, documenting, and presenting works that could be site-specific, immaterial, impermanent, or sit outside of traditional art media. His inclusion in the formative group exhibition of Minimalist and Conceptual art When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969 saw the presentation of the artist's first text-based work resulting from a walk conducted in the Alps. In 1970, Long walked in his muddy boots in a spiral on the floor of a New York gallery, the mud having come from the U.K.
Long's examination of the tensions between the monumental work of art and the ephemeral gesture was further complicated in his presentation for the 37th Venice Biennale. XXXVII (1976) was an earthwork installation comprising red breccia rocks obtained near Verona. Arranged in a trailing spiral spanning multiple sections of the British Pavilion, the work subtly narrativised local geography and measurements of space.
From the 1980s, Long began working with mud directly with his hands on the wall in works that bore direct, visceral bodily traces, indexing the artist's manipulation of raw materials and environmental disturbance.
Long continued to sculpt pared-back lines and geometric forms with natural materials collected over time, or from neighbouring sites. His extensive series of 'Circle' sculptures bring together materials from a surrounding environment in austere circular configurations, referencing concepts of Minimalism, Land Art, and Geometric Abstraction.
Jean Fisher wrote for Artforum: 'The pleasure and power of Richard Long's work lies not only in the elegance of its execution but in the economy with which it condenses the cultural demands we make of landscape: the esthetic and the documentary (the evidence of "nature"), the romantic (solitude, wildness, transience), and the rational (order, harmony, permanence).'
Long has received numerous awards and accolades, including Japan's Praemium Imperiale for Sculpture (2009), the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Prize (1995), and the Turner Prize (1989).
Long was honoured as a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1990 and was elected to London's Royal Academy of Arts in 2001. In 2013, Long was appointed a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), and in 2018 he was knighted for his services to art. Long was named Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon in 2015.
Richard Long has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions around the world since the 1960s.
Solo exhibitions include Richard Long, M Leuven, Belgium (2021); Provencal Stones and Vallauris Clay, Chateau La Coste, Provence (2021); From Urique to Orizaba River Deep Mountain High, Cuadra San Cristóbal, Mexico City (2020); Richard Long, De Pont Museum, Tilburg (2019).
Long's works are held in major international public collections, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Daegu Art Museum; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Kunsthaus Zurich; Guggenheim Bilbao; Leeds Art Gallery; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Chinati Foundation, Marfa; among others.
Richard Long's website can be found here.
Misong Kim | Ocula | 2022