A Postcard From Las Vegas: Seven Magic Mountains

Photo of Lauryn Wilder
4 December 2017

The relationship between Las Vegas and neon has bled into the desert. Seven Magic Mountains, the totemic-like structure located on the dry lake bed outside Jean, Nevada, brings bright shots of neon into a muted, earthy desert. The name sounds like it belongs to an amusement park instead of an attraction, but these vivid rock structures continue a tradition of land art that has been carried on since the 1960s.

Located off Interstate 15 south of Las Vegas, Seven Magic Mountains is a popular stopping-off point for travelers on their way to and from California. The artwork, designed by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, is not easily visible from the freeway; those in search of the totems will have to veer off the main road to get a good look at them. The neon-colored boulders were designed to contrast nature and artifice, like the casinos of the Strip do in the Las Vegas Valley.

Seven Magic Mountains started as a project between the Art Production Fund and Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. The site was chosen as an homage to past artists and their creations in the same area, including Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt, Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson and Jean Tinguely’s Study for an End of the World No. 2. Rondinone and his team spray-painted the boulders after coring, cutting and fitting them together with a set of forklifts. The work contains 33 boulders in total, varying in weight from 40 to 56 tons.

Like the city that it neighbors, Seven Magic Mountains illustrates the effect of human perseverance in the desert. The project took over five years to complete and went up in May 2016. Seven Magic Mountains will be on display until May 2018. There is no cost to view the work, and guests can stay for as long as they wish. The artist and the work’s producers also highly encourage visitors to take pictures. Security patrols the area due to past vandalism of the art and to make sure that the structures aren’t disturbed.

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