Friday, January 20, 2017

A Visit to Seven Magic Mountains


If the neon boulders at Seven Magic Mountains remind you of the colorful rock formations found throughout the Southwestern United States, you understand what the artist had in mind.



Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains inspires strong reactions. I’ve read both derisive comments that question its artistic merit and enthusiastic reviews extolling the giant land art.

I recently visited the piece one Sunday afternoon and found the area full of happy people who were snapping pictures and exploring the stacks of boulders. Whatever the detractors may say, the people I saw were enjoying the sight of Seven Magic Mountains, situated with the dry lake bed of Jean on one side and I15 on the other. 


So, is Seven Magic Mountains “art”? I’ve read plenty of comments from people who think it’s not. That begs the question: What is art? To me, it’s creative work that inspires, enlightens, informs or delights. For some people, it’s all about technical mastery or technique, and they only see art in things like a Renaissance painting or a Rodin sculpture. That’s the thing about art: it’s subjective. 

Rondinone took five years to create Seven Magic Mountains, which is built from locally-sourced limestone boulders. According to an interview with the artist in Art News, he took inspiration from hoodoos and the “meditation practice of balancing stones.” 

Some of the most striking pictures I've seen of the piece were taken at sunrise or sunset when the towers are standing alone in the desert. 

But on the day I visited, the presence of people made it feel like a mini-festival. My hubby, our dog Gigi, and I walked from a crowded parking lot down a short desert path filled with a stream of people. A woman in front of us was carrying a little drone, which we later got to watch fly as we walked around the boulders.


Not long after we arrived, a tour helicopter flew in, buzzing in a quick arc around the towers before turning and zipping back toward town. 


Nearby on I15, the cars and trucks were speeding by.

Despite their 30-35 foot height, the stacks are dwarfed by the vastness of the Mojave, which appeared an obvious metaphor for Las Vegas. 

I loved seeing people wandering around in the desert, taking pictures of not just Seven Magic Mountains, but of the landscape around them. Whether or not you like Rondinone’s artistry, you have to acknowledge the magnificence of the place where it sits. 


Seven Magic Mountains is planned to be on display for two years. It opened May 11, 2016.

Background Note: For those who are concerned about taxpayer funds being spent for the project, don’t worry--Jane Ann Morrison at the RJ reported that of the $3.5 million it cost, only $100,000 came from taxpayer monies via the Nevada Commission on Tourism. That makes sense to me, considering the international attention the installation has drawn. The rest of the funds were raised from donations.

Have you been to Seven Magic Mountains?

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