Untitled Earthworks

There is art to be found in Kent. And if you don’t believe me, you can Google map it. Installed in an old gravel pit in 1979, Untitled (Johnson Pit #30) is a fine example of bulldozer art (also called “earth art” during that decade). Robert Morris graded a series of concentric terraces in the hillside concavity, which resembles an old crater overlooking the Green River. There are some railroad-tie stairs, a bench or two, plus the “ghost forest” of old stumps that Morris preserved in creosote, yet the clean old earthworks has long since grown over with grass and brush. (Goats are used to tend it.) The sharp edges and contours have eroded, by design. Locals now use the place as a dog run. On a recent visit to the four-acre site, ringed by a quarter-mile trail, there was evidence of recent snow sledding. The setting has also changed since Morris wrote of his King County Arts Commission grant, “It would be a misguided assumption to suppose that artists hired to work in industrially blasted landscapes would necessarily and inevitably choose to convert such sites into idyllic and reassuring places, thereby socially redeeming those who wasted the landscape in the first place.” Indeed, the Johnson Pit is hardly reassuring—more like the eerie Stonehenge remnant of a mysterious extinct culture. Only now it’s surrounded by the dissonant geometry of new condo and apartment complexes. The suburban grid and rooflines contradict Morris’ divot; and one wonders, compared to the old gravel pit, which he would now consider blight. If his pit was once a rebuke, an open wound in the terra firma, it now seems a successful repair job. BRIAN MILLER

Starts: Jan. 18. Daily, 2009

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