Just outside of Las Vegas, beyond the twinkling neon lights and unenthusiastic workers handing out strip club cards, lies the Seven Magic Mountains, a public art installation by Ugo Rondinone.
There is no public transport to the Seven Magic Mountains, so you’ll have to catch a ride there somehow. It is located only 10 miles/16km south (or about 20 minutes, for those of us who measure distance in time) of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, Nevada. The Seven Magic Mountains even has its own location on google maps, so you can just GPS your way there. If you’re coming from Las Vegas, hop on I-15 S and there will also be signs pointing you in the right direction.
There is a parking lot, so please park there instead of randomly driving onto the dirt. There are no restrooms or any amenities (what?? no spa???) at the Seven Magic Mountains, or anything other than rocks and dust. So be prepared for that and bring your own water.
Yah, I know, the quality is like really bad. IT WAS DUSTY, OKAY?? Anyways, this view is from the parking lot, just before the little trail to the site. You can see the Seven Magic Mountains in the distance. One of them is hidden behind, can you spot it?
As you approach the mountains, there are a few signs along the way. One, warning of venomous snakes (thx Nevada), so explore the grounds at your own risk.
“These stone sculptures are works of art intended for your visual enjoyment. For your safety and the safety of others, please do not attempt to climb on, move, dislodge, deface or disturb the sculptures.”
One more time for the people in the back.
“DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLIMB ON, MOVE, DISLODGE, DEFACE, OR DISTURB THE SCULPTURES.”
Okay, moving on.
The “mountains” are massive. This art instillation actually took 5 years from concept to completion. Rondinone describes this piece as a mix of pop art (one of my favorite kinds of art) and land art (an emerging favorite of mine). While land art usually blends in to nature and its surroundings, pop art does the exact opposite.
“Seven Magic Mountains elicits continuities and solidarities between human nature, artificial and natural, then and now,” states Rondinone.
The boulders themselves are around 40-50 thousand pounds each. Before they were stacked, holes were drilled through the cores of the boulders, then hoisted on top of each other. A lot of heavy lifting went into putting these seven magic mountains together!
Rondinone describes the color scheme as the most artificial colors possible, to draw a stark contrast between the Nevada landscape. The mountains give resemblance to hoodoo mountains, which are all over the world, but also highly concentrated in southwest USA (think Bryce Canyon, Utah). They also give the same calm aura of balanced stones.
We arrived around 8pm, close to sunset. From the pictures I’ve seen, earlier in the day is probably more popular. Perhaps because the lighting would be better for Instagram with less shadows. Perhaps because people hate sunsets. The world will never know. Even so, there were still a handful of visitors wandering through.
In fact, there were a few group of teenagers just hanging around and chatting about teenager stuff. It was like the Seven Magic Mountains had become the new Taco Bell after school loitering spot. Then, of course, there were also photographers busting out some crazy poses to get the perfect angle in the light. There were also simple art admirers, who didn’t take a single photo. They just stared up at the mountains in silence with a faint smile across their lips.
UGH, then there were the annoying people trying to climb the art. Not to point anyone out, but they were jumping all over them, getting their scuffy shoes on the nice paint and run-jumping off of them for the perfect boomerang or whatever. It really grinded my gears. I couldn’t understand how a full grown human could act that way. A few little kiddos also tried to climb on them, but their mother’s usually threatened them and they got off very quickly. This was art, it was someone’s work. Get out of the way and go climb a tree. #disrespk
Anyways, enough of the ranting. I’m not usually an art snob by any means, but I couldn’t roll my eyes enough to express my vexation of the blatant disregard for rules and common sense. Moving on.
You don’t really get a full sense of the piece until you’re in it. It was exciting to see from far away, but standing between all of them at once took my breath away. It was a pretty awesome feeling.
I took a couple pictures, but we didn’t stay long. It was still in the upper 90s-100s (35-38 celcsius) so I was ready to go after I artistically pondered reality in the desert after a good twenty minutes. It may look like I’m glowing with youthful energy, but really it’s just sweat.
The Seven Magic Mountains is only a two year instillation. It was opened in May 2016, so I’m guessing it’ll be down around May 2018. I 100% recommend checking it out, and I’m not just saying that because Ugo Rondinone is one of my favorite contemporary artists. I think it’s important to expose yourself to art and culture every once in a while, and even more important to get out into nature. So why not do both at the same time?
I’ll leave you with a few parting things to think about:
- What do these seven magic mountains make you think of?
- Have you ever balanced stones anywhere in nature?
- Do you like land art? What about pop art?? What about pop land art???
Let me know in the comments! If you would like any more information (or better pictures), visit the official Seven Magic Mountains website.