Chicago

Richard Long

Donald Young Gallery

For his first American one-person exhibition since the 1986 retrospective of his work at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Richard Long showed three stone circles, a mud ring on the wall, and two mud drawings, all done in 1987. The installation, itself untitled, was accompanied by the latest in Long’s ongoing series of site documentation publications, this one called Out of the Wind.

Long’s austere assemblies of rings, lines, and fields of stone declare the edges of somehow sacred spaces whether they are encountered indoors or out, but the remoteness of many of the artist’s outdoor works has made them known primarily through the photographic reproductions in the artist’s books. These images are souvenirs of a private pilgrimage as well as documentation of otherwise unseen activity. One’s sense of the spirit of Long’s gallery constructions is tinged by recollection of the artist’s wilderness markers.

The largest of the three stone works, Vermont Georgia South Carolina Wyoming Circle, which is more than 24 feet in diameter, surrounded the pillar in the middle of the main gallery space. Long divided the circle into quadrants of red, white, dark gray, and greenish rocks from the four states named in the title. The suggestion of random placement within the circle is undone by this rigorous chromatic succession. The stones have been chosen more for their color and widely distant origins than for any intrinsic similarities. White marble, with its grainy striations, is not found in nature next to the jagged cleavage of red slate. This is a subtle incongruence, but one appropriate to the artificial environment of the gallery.

The wall work, River Avon Mud Ring, is about half the size of the large floor piece. This ring of splashy gestures in mud enclosing a circular area of white wall was executed in a corner where the walls meet at an obtuse angle, like the open pages of a gigantic book. The evidence of its making was splattered across walls, a nearby column, and the floor; in comparison, the footprints of River Avon mud in the two framed and untitled drawings on paper look dandified and precious.

A certain preciousness also pervades Out of the Wind, Long’s latest publication, which includes black-and-white and color photographs of 17 works. Of these, 15 were made in 1986 and ’87, but only the last one shown, Brittany Circle, 1987, which Long assembled in a clearing in the Domaine de Kerguehennec, is an outdoor work. The book reveals Long’s more frequent recent use of indoor sites. Certainly the gallery is warmer than the wilderness, but the noblest recollections of Long’s art have him moving stones on mountainsides or desolate plains, leaning into the wind.

Buzz Spector