Ugo Rondinone is a New York-based, Swiss-born mixed-media artist noted for a range of contemporary paintings and sculptures.
Rondinone is widely known for his temporary, large-scale land art sculpture, Seven Magic Mountains (2016-2018), with its seven fluorescently-painted totems of large, car-size stones stacked 32 feet (9.8 m) high. The installation's organizer, the Nevada Museum of Art, estimated that 16 million people would see the work — from its location just south of Las Vegas, alongside Interstate 15, the primary Los Angeles-Las Vegas interstate.
Ugo Rondinone was born in 1964 to Italian parents in the resort town of Brunnen, Switzerland. He moved to Zurich in 1983 to become the assistant to Hermann Nitsch and studied at the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst in Wien, from 1986 to 1990. In 1998 he moved to New York City, where he continues to live and work in Harlem.
Rondinone emerged as an artist in the 1990s. Rondinone's paintings are noted for their brightly colored, concentric rings of target-shapes; strictly black and white landscapes of gnarled trees; and large rainbow signs.
In 2013 he exhibited an installation called Human Nature, a group of monumental stone figures in Rockefeller Center, Manhattan — resembling rudimentary rock robots.
Seven Magic Mountains followed Rondinone's work Human Nature, a Public Art Fund project of monumental, stone stick-figures arranged in the highly man-made environment of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan — and depicts the opposite: highly artificial neon totems set in the natural environment.
The piece consists of 33 limestone boulders, each weighing 10 to 25 tons, arranged in seven towers 30 to 35 feet tall — secured by a solid backbone, with each stone painted a bright, fluorescent color. Approximately five years in the making, the work is located on the far southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard, 10 miles south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, Nevada — near Dry Jean Lake, with a backdrop of the McCullough Mountains.
Seven Magic Mountains: The sculpture was organized by the Nevada Museum of Art and runs from May 11, 2016 to December 31, 2018 — having originally been scheduled for two years and extended through the end of 2018. The installation opened following a two-day inaugural event.
The work is situated on three acres of federally owned land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. Resolving federal, state, and local regulations consumed nearly 20% of the project’s budget and permitting took approximately three years. Ultimately, the Bureau of Land Management granted a “site” type right-of-way permit — typically a 30-year permit authorizing projects such as communication towers —for three years. Seven Magic Mountains was privately funded and cost approximately $3.5 million.
A special law reduces the producers’ and the artist’s liability if a member of the viewing public "does something stupid" (e.g., climbing and falling). The law, Seven Magic Mountains, NRS 41.517, is the only public-art carve-out in the country. Signs around the sculpture warn viewers of potential dangers.
The Reno Gazette-Journal estimated that more than 2 million people have taken photographs at the sculpture for Instagram. Vogue used the installation in a photo shoot in April 2017. It is one of the largest land-based art installations in the United States since the early 1990s.
He has been the subject of major solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle, Vienna; Museo de Art Contemporaneo, Leon, Spain; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; and Sculpture Center, New York. In 2007, he represented Switzerland in the Venice Biennale. His works are in the collections of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, among others.
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