By Laima Rastikis
In the unforgiving desert landscape just outside of Las Vegas, a bit of playful magic has appeared. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone has conjured the union of art and the environment in a fluorescent display of seven towering, cairn-like forms known as the Seven Magic Mountains.
Famous for his interest in natural phenomena, Rondinone created this super-sized, public “land art” using 33 locally sourced limestone boulders, each painted a different day-glow hue. Rising 30-to-35 feet high, the boldly colored stacks resemble a child’s playthings, but on a colossal scale.
The site, visible along Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, is 20 miles south of the last casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s also a short distance from Jean Dry Lake, where artists Michael Heizer and Jean Tinguely gained notoriety with their own land art works in the 1960s.
To create Seven Magic Mountains, Rondinone took inspiration from hoodoos, the natural rock spires found in badlands, drainage basins and rugged landscapes of the American West. He chose a location physically and symbolically midway between the natural – the mountains, desert and dry lake – and the artificial – the highway and heavy traffic flow between Los Angeles and Las Vegas – according to the Seven Magic Mountains website.
The sculptures pay “homage to the history of land art while also offering a contemporary critique of the simulacra in nearby Las Vegas,” Rondinone said in a press release.
For visitors, the totems live up to the “magic” in their name. At once whimsical and majestic, the flawlessly balanced stacks evoke wonder, amusement and comments such as “how?” and “wow.”
And unlike little else in Las Vegas, visiting the site is free.
Seven Magic Mountains is produced by the Art Production Fund, New York, and Nevada Museum of Art, Reno. Five years in the making, the $3.5 million project is almost entirely funded through private donations.
The installation’s two-year run will end May 10, 2018.
Laima Rastikis is an experienced writer and lifelong storyteller. Her addiction to travel began at age 23, when she took off for seven weeks on a trip around the world. A few years (and travels) later, she put a down payment on a lifetime of adventure with her husband when she opted for a honeymoon in West Africa over an engagement ring. She hasn’t looked back since.