New York

Will Insley

John Gibson Gallery

Will Insley designs vast projects which he intends to realize in concrete. At John Gibson he showed several large elevations, a five-foot-square model, and, perhaps most dramatic, a huge photo of that model—all depicting a giant 360-foot square series of concentric ridges low in relation to the whole piece, but high (12 feet) when a person will walk up and down its gradual inclines toward its center. There, 180 feet of unadorned, horizon-hiding concrete away from the world, he will find . . . more concrete, for the piece will be homogenous.

Insley, to my mind, is an example of the Bauhaus bent run amuck, here about to ruthlessly celebrate its rigidities on a scale until recently unimagined by the individual artist. That Mies’s current friends would sooner or later light upon such an enormous field in which to practice their favorite visual virtues, strictness and sterility, was perhaps inevitable. Many more of them are possibly sharpening their T-squares at this very moment. But the International Style’s invasion of the countryside is only part of the problem. A deeper issue is to what extent any visual style should do so. Every earthwork, even the most baffling, turns the landscape into an experience on man’s terms, evokes human issues, human preoccupations in an arena preciously foreign to man. Insley represents an extreme, but every earth artist tends to be a visual imperialist. True, his physical violation of the landscape itself may be slight or temporary, but his work, particularly as part of a widespread style or school, can easily violate something at least as important—our experience. In the ecology of the felt landscape, the earth artist exploring his “Art Country” may one day; despite finer intentions, be as regrettable as the adman exploiting his “Marlborough Country.” Man does not have to be the measure. Instead, relaxed, free from his rage to control, he might better hear the landscape breathe, might better feel its own glory, as not his prepared home but an adventure, no echo but an “other.”

Jean-Louis Bourgeois