Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Richard Long (British, b. 1945)

Chicago Mud Circle, 1996

Mud on wall

Approximately: Diameter: 24 ft. (7.3 m)

Gift of David Meitus

Richard Long made Chicago Mud Circle in one day, using his hands to apply local clay directly to the gallery wall. The work debuted in fall 1996, the inaugural year of the MCA’s current building, and remains irremovable; when the work is not part of an exhibition, it is concealed by a temporary wall. Long’s wall works function in contrast to those of Sol LeWitt (American, 1928–2007), whose wall drawings exist in the form of instructions that are infinitely reproducible. According to Long: “Every mud work is unique to the wall on which it is made… . Potentially, it could last as long as the wall itself lasts.” Chicago Mud Circle is a balance of structure and spontaneity: the simplicity of the circular black under-painting contrasts with the splashes and drips from the application of mud—an inevitable and desired effect of his process—that recall the energetic drips of mid-20th-century action painting.

Long work comes from/are inspired by his walks through a range of landscapes across the globe. Unlike many contemporary artists who considered the landscape a canvas to be shaped by heavy machinery, Long sees himself in the role of a custodian of nature. He incorporates materials from his walks into geometric shapes, arranging wood, stone, or mud into lines, circles, or spirals in the gallery space.