a body measured against the earth

  • A photo of a picturesque countryside with stone ruins features a dark, human-like form in the dry dirt.
A photo of a picturesque countryside with stone ruins features a dark, human-like form in the dry dirt.
Ana Mendieta, Untitled from the Silueta series, 1973–77. Silver dye-bleach print; sheet for parts 1, 6, 9, 10: 15 7/8 × 19 7/8 in. (40.3 × 50.5 cm); sheet for parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12: 19 7/8 × 15 7/8 in. (50.5 × 40.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift from The Howard and Donna Stone Collection, 2002.46.3. © The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection. Courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Michelle Stuart, Turtle Pond, 1974. Earth and graphite on muslin-mounted rag paper; 96 × 62 1/8 in. (243.9 × 157.8 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Robert and Marlene Baumgarten, 1977.22. © 1974 Michelle Stuart. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Regina José Galindo, Tierra, 2013. Live performance, Les Moulins de Paillard, Paris. Courtesy of the artists and Proyectos Ultravioleta, Guatemala City.
  1. Long A green and beige sunlit hill features a patch of dry, overgrown switchgrass. In the foreground, a teardrop-shaped indentation resembles a burial site. In it, a person is lying down covered in hundreds of smaller pieces of switchgrass.
Maria Gaspar, Disappearance Suit (Marin Headlands, CA), 2017. Tyvek, dry grasses, spray paint, thread, and adhesive. Site-specific performance still. Photo: Nicolas Mastracchio.
Hamish Fulton, France on the Horizon, 1976. Gelatin silver print and transfer letter on mat board with artist’s frame; sight: 39 ½ × 47 ½ in. (100.3 × 120.6 cm); frame: 43 1/8 × 51 1/8 × ½ in. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Baxter Travenol Laboratories, Inc., Deerfield, IL, 1983.21. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago.
Vito Acconci, Stretch, 1969. Gelatin silver prints, chalkboard spray paint, chalk, and marker on foam core; 54 × 54 in. (137.2 × 137.2 cm). Collection of Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gerald S. Elliott Collection, 1995.24. © 1969 Vito Acconci. Photo © MCA Chicago.


“Walking … is how the body measures itself against the earth.”*

The artists in this exhibition stage encounters between the earth and the body—the primary tool at their disposal—to understand the land and their relationship to it. Ranging from physical interventions in the ground to conceptual documentations of travel and labor, their divergent practices reject a totalizing or objective view of the landscape, instead favoring embodied investigations of specific places, histories, and ideals. In the process, the artists recognize land “not as scenery, but as the spaces and systems we inhabit, a system our own lives depend upon.” (Rebecca Solnit, As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art, 47.)

Titled after a quote from ecofeminist author and critic Rebecca Solnit, a body measured against the earth is drawn largely from the MCA’s collection. It takes inspiration from the ephemeral “earth-body” works staged by Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta in the 1970s and weaves legacies of land art and “walking art” with more recent work in conceptual photography and the moving image.

The exhibition is organized by Jared Quinton, Marjorie Susman Curatorial Fellow. It is presented in the Cohen and Stone Family Galleries on the museum’s fourth floor.


*Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (New York: Penguin, 2001), 31.


Artists featured in this exhibition include:

Vito Acconci (American, 1940–2017)
Jeanne Dunning (American, b. 1960)
Hamish Fulton (English, b. 1946)
Regina José Galindo (Guatemalan, b. 1974)
Maria Gaspar (American)
Nancy Holt (American, 1938–2014)
Richard Long (English, b. 1945)
Ana Mendieta (Cuban-American, 1948–1985)
Richard Misrach (American, b. 1949)
Dennis Oppenheim (American, 1938–2011)
Robert Smithson (American, 1938–1973)
Michelle Stuart (American, b. 1933)
Elizabeth M. Webb (American)
Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953)