There is the word and the thing itself. Then there is Richard Long, the British-born landscape artist. Now a well-recognised figure in the international contemporary art scene, Long made his name through walking. These walks then became the sculptural ‘marks’ of his work.
Long is an exceptional and distinctive artist. He studied at Central St. Martins in the sixties and was connected to many of the important twentieth-century art movements. But he kept aloof from them too. He has been hard to pin down ever since – not quite a land artist, not quite a minimalist. This essay contextualizes Long’s work within that of the American Earthwork sculptors, especially penman Robert Smithson. Rather than focusing on his perambulatory methods, this essay takes an altogether different view, seeing Long’s work as part of a budding earth-word movement, or what Hal Foster calls ‘The Passion of the Sign’.