Seven Magic Mountains by Ugo Rondinone is located approximately 10 miles south of Las Vegas Boulevard. This translates into a 40-minute ride into the desert with a mildly confused Uber driver. Soon the reason for our trip is clear: emerging across the desert backed horizon are 27 to 35 foot high dayglow totems, made from neon-painted locally-sourced boulders.
Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains consists of 33 boulders weighing from 20,000 pounds to 25 tons, stacked into seven totems. The towers are meant to evoke contrast and continuity between nature and culture, hence their artificial bright colours, which stand out against the desert landscape’s browns and greys.
A stone’s throw from the busy freeway, there is significance in the site chosen. It is physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial, the vast stillness of the desert and the constant traffic connecting Los Angeles with Las Vegas. “Seven Magic Mountains elicits continuities and solidarities between human nature, artificial and natural, then and now,” says Rondinone.
Seven Magic Mountains is in good company. It lies a short distance from the legendary Jean Dry Lake, the site of numerous fashion shoots, car commercials, performance and land art. The lake itself holds water only during rainy periods, and so provides the perfect canvas for temporarily inscribing marks on the land, where Michael Heizer and Jean Tinquely created their equally imposing sculptures in the 1960s. Just over the horizon to the East is Sloan Canyon, host to thousands of petroglyphs, the oldest kind of land art humans have made.
Rondinone is renowned for exploring physical space through sculpture beyond the traditional confines of gallery walls. Like his five previous public sculpture projects, Seven Magic Mountains is imbedded in the observation of nature and its relation to the modern human condition.
Although reminiscent of an earlier work entitled 4am, Seven Magic Mountains is in fact a direct reaction to Rondinone’s previous sculpture Human Nature, in New York. Both projects have stone as their prime material, and form a dual outlook on the contrast and similarity of the natural and the artificial. With this latest project, Rondinone pushes boundaries further in both scale and location, to realise a thought-provoking, conversation-starting and endlessly instagrammable piece.
Seven Magic Mountains is produced by Art Production Fund, New York, and Nevada Museum of Art. It was originally intended to be shown for two years only, but will remain in place until at least the end of 2018. Plans are underway to extend the installation further.