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Spiral Jetta: A Road Trip through the Land Art of the American West

3.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  159 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Erin Hogan hit the road in her Volkswagen Jetta and headed west from Chicago in search ofthe monuments of American land art: a salty coil of rocks, four hundred stainless steel poles, a gash in a mesa, four concrete tubes, and military sheds filled with cubes. Her journey took her through the states of Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. It also took her through ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 15th 2009 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 324)
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Sian Lile-Pastore
Would have given this more stars had the writer not been so obnoxious and judgemental! Jeez, she's all judgy on Midwesterners, young people, men in bars.... Plus she drinks four (or five?) beers and then drives and incorrectly states that's Walter de Maria was a drummer for the velvet underground (it was a different band!) and then sometimes she is just dull.

I mean - this could have been great, and I like reading about all the land art and how you actually visit it, but she very much comes from
...more
Mike
Jan 06, 2010 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book is a straightforward account of a road trip to see the earthworks (most notably, Spiral Jetty, Double Negative, and the Lightning Field) with all of the usual nightmarish ordeals that occur on a road trip that you later laugh at. But there are several problems with the book: first, it's a version of City Slickers, wherein a "sophisticated urbanite" who happens to be the public affairs director of the Art Institute of Chicago decides to test her mettle by driving solo out to the west to ...more
Robert Boyd
Sep 10, 2011 Robert Boyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
There is a crisis in art criticism in the U.S. IT has been depicted as a battle between judgment and indifference (in the postmodern sense--you choose not to judge because you know any judgment, once deconstructed, will demonstrate bad faith). It has been depicted as a battle between belle lettrist writing and highly theoretical writing--the poets vs the philosophers. And most of all, it has been described as a situation where critics have zero influence over what is considered interesting and w ...more
Marc Weidenbaum
Spiral Jetta is, like other recent memoirs, two books in one. Like Eat, Pray, Love is both personal memoir and foodie travel guide, and Julie & Julia both personal memoir and cook's journal, this book, by Erin Hogan, is both personal memoir and art travel guide. And no, I've read neither of those other two, though I did see the latter flick.

A dyed-in-the-wool city mouse, Hogan drives solo into the deserts of the American southwest in search of various landmarks of land art, like the sculptur
...more
Dana
Feb 22, 2014 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erin Hogan, a self-identified recovering art historian and inveterate Chicagoan, wants to break out of her 9-to-5 routine, face solitude, and see the great American land art monuments. Spiral Jetta: A Road Trip through the Land Art of the American West is a three-week pilgrimage that takes Hogan through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to Robert Smithson’s Sprial Jetty, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field, and the Chinati Foundation and Donald Judd’s ho ...more
Erin Zwiener
Jun 04, 2014 Erin Zwiener rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh, don't bother. Read something by someone with some awareness about the American west or who's at least willing to do a bit of research and test their preconceptions. As a westerner, I was thrown off by her total lack of knowledge about rural places from the fourth page when she started musing about the geometric placement of hay bales in the fields and wonders if the farmers have an aesthetic preference similar to Donald Judd's minimalism, instead the more obvious conclusion that it's a choi ...more
Alice
Sep 12, 2012 Alice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was really a 2.5 for me. The book worked best when the author stuck to discussing the art. When she tried to write a 'wacky' roadtrip narrative, I mostly wanted to smack her upside the head for her pretentious and condescending attitude towards just about everything she encounters and everyone she meets. I nearly gave up on this book because of it, but I was interested enough in the artwork that I forced myself to finish.
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
Offbeat and informative -- I learned a lot about conceptual land art. The author played up her weaknesses a bit, especially concerning her fear of solitude. Chicagoan Hogan dared herself to take this picaresque journey alone, although at a certain point about two-thirds of the way through her adventure, she was joined by a friend. I would love to follow in her footsteps and see some of the art she sought out, most especially Spiral Jetty and Double Negative. Her art history background lends grav ...more
Lisa Kucharski
Dec 10, 2014 Lisa Kucharski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this book that wove probing questions about site specific works of art with the people and landscape that they were actually placed. Having had a similar love of earth art and the ideas surrounding it I found the book interesting and it felt like I was listening to a conversation I might have heard from a fellow artist. For someone not familiar with "art lingo" and their concerns this book would feel very foreign.

I have had similar experiences with art, where you see a piece after
...more
Bruce
Dec 08, 2011 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Public Affairs Director of the Art Institute of Chicago shares her travel diary of a car trip through Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Her plan is to experience the monumental scale art created in the late twentieth century and to test herself against her fears of isolation, disorientation and spontaneity. Her account is frank and detailed. She gives the reader unfamiliar with the art works just enough background on the creators’ artistic visions and their history to balance her ...more
Pamela
Mar 07, 2012 Pamela rated it liked it
Spiral Jetta is about art, Land Art. Or you could say it’s about Hogan’s travels, her adventures and a few of her fears. Hogan is far from the urban Chicago she is used to, and alone – at least for the first portion of her journey. She drives her Jetta across roads that are best suited for a four-wheel drive vehicle, and rightly worries about her car. The first stop is Spiral Jetty in Utah near the Nevada border, in the Salt Lake region.

There are a few moments of the book, when she lingers on a
...more
Ben
An interesting travelogue. Erin Hogan, director of public affairs for the Art Institute of Chicago, sets out, woefully uprepared, to tour the great works of American Land Art. She has no compass or GPS, few directions, and very little ability to exist outside of a comfortable, Sex-In-The-City-style urban existence. Predictably, she finds it tough going. At times, Hogan seems to be trying to make this book a story of overcoming personal obstacles, finding inner strength, etc., etc. This attempt i ...more
Meredith Wortzel
When I first read the review of this book a few years ago, I didn't think I was going to like it because I thought it would be too much of a self-discovery/personal memoir and that really is what it was like. The only land art that I have seen that Hogan saw as well was the Spiral Jetty and I probably should have stopped after that chapter because I didn't agree with many of her reactions. And she meets a couple there who said they were walking up to the hillside to watch the sunset and she thou ...more
Heather
May 08, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I bought this book to read on a trip to Arizona, but my boyfriend read it and then we lent it to his aunt (who lives in AZ) so I didn't get to start it until a few weeks later. This was a very thoughtful and thorough trip through the land-art in the southwest. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any of the art that Erin Hogan writes about, but her short stay in Flagstaff and some driving around the desert did sound familiar.
A lot of this land art is huge and open to interpretation. What I most
...more
Sara Benson
Aug 14, 2011 Sara Benson rated it did not like it
As an examination of contemporary landscape art in the U.S. West, the book succeeds in part. That said, the level of in-depth information and critical analysis you'll get in this too-short book often disappoints. It reads more like a graduate school thesis draft than a polished manuscript, and the quality of the black-and-white photos is poor.

As a travel narrative, this book fails abjectly. The author spends dozens of pages and thousands of words describing her unjustified paranoia about sexual
...more
Sara Benson
Dec 21, 2010 Sara Benson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As an examination of contemporary landscape art in the U.S. West, the book succeeds in part. That said, the level of in-depth information and critical analysis you'll get in this too-short book often disappoints. It reads more like a graduate school thesis draft than a polished manuscript, and the quality of the black-and-white photos is poor.

As a travel narrative, this book fails abjectly. The author spends dozens of pages and thousands of words describing her unjustified paranoia about sexual
...more
Nat
Feb 26, 2010 Nat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've done part of the drive described in this book: I started in El Paso, drove to Marfa to see the Judd boxes and Flavin lights, then went to New Mexico to see Walter de Maria's Lightningfield. It was too long of a drive to see the Spiral Jetty, and I knew not to try to look for the Roden Crater.

I read this after reading Pierre Clostermann's account of flying Spitfires and Tempests in WWII. War is awful, but it does make for incredible storytelling. Whereas late-late capitalist knowledge-econo
...more
James Lang
Mar 02, 2016 James Lang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great entry in a terrific series from the University of Chicago Press called Culture Trails, which are travel books focused on trips with some cultural significance. In this one the author travels to the American West to view a half-dozen land-art installments. She is a funny and smart narrator, and her reflections on the meaning of land art, and art in general, are thought-provoking and informative. All of the Culture Trails books are brief (this one around 175 pages including pictures), so t ...more
Steve
Sep 04, 2011 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, bio, arts, ibook
Not normally a book I would have read, but the August free book from University of Chicago Press.

And I did enjoy it, for it works on two levels: an overview of "modern land art" (Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels, Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field, James Turrell’s Roden Crater, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, and the contemporary art mecca of Marfa, Texas) and a self discovery travelogue. While I don't get the meaning behind the "art" part ("Presentness is grace."-- Mich
...more
Dorothee Lang
Aug 21, 2011 Dorothee Lang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
enjoyed the book a lot - it worked like a virtual road trip for me, made me visit the landart places in images and youtube clips while reading the chapters, and brought back own memories of road trips / art trips that connected to Erin Hogan's reflections.

this book is probably most enjoyed by people who were on road / art trips themselves before, and already have some connection to landart.

i blogged about it with links (including a blog travelogue of a visit to Spiral Jetty), here: http://virtu
...more
Courtney
While I enjoyed Hogan's analysis of the various earthworks and site-specific pieces she visited, the last section of the book lost momentum in a very disappointing way. Considering the book is short to begin with, I wonder if maybe she would have been better off writing a series of essays on the art works, instead of attempting to weave her responses and history lessons into a longer narrative. This is a flawed project, but I'm glad I read it. 2.5 stars
Adrienne
Aug 04, 2012 Adrienne rated it really liked it
I enjoy art and I enjoy stories about travel and this book has both. It's also fun that the author lives in Chicago and works at the Art Institute. I liked that theory was referenced but the tone of the book was humorous; it never felt too heady. She also writes honestly admitting when she isn't impressed by something or that she feels a little let down that the land art isn't what she expected. It definitely makes me want to take a road trip.
Ross
Feb 10, 2013 Ross rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Land art is, I think, fascinating. This book is ostensibly about land art around the West. The author is funny and neurotic, which provides laugh out-loud moments through the first few chapters. And her description and analysis of a several places, including Spiral Jetty and the Lighting Field, is compelling. But the book goes off the rails in the chapter about Jaurez and the charm in writing about visits that didn't work out wears thin.
Dolores
Dec 01, 2008 Dolores rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dolores by: Jen
This book was a good combination of road trip memoir and art history refresher. I appreciated her descriptions of these land-art sites, many of which I have been interested in visiting but wasn't sure if they would be worth the trouble. And her discussions of complicated art historical theories were interesting and accessible. Much funner than a dense theoretical work. It made me want to take a road trip, which I guess is a good result.
Du
Jul 28, 2012 Du rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, non-fiction
I liked this book. The travel sections were fun, and the fact that everything on the trip wasn't a disaster, nor perfect was appealing. I liked the thrill seeking aspects, and the descriptions off the art. I doubt know if I'd like environmental art, butt it does make me want to personally see some.
Carol
Aug 17, 2009 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hogan plays "art tourist" and visits land art in Utah, Texas and other southwestern places. She is deftly able to swing from lonely traveler in shabby hotels to learned art critic. Sad that much of this art is almost inaccessible and cannot be appreciated in photos.
Matt Hannafin
A very quirky book about land art in the American west. The author has written it in road-trip format, so land art sorta becomes her general theme, around which she also discusses everything else that happened along the way. Not exactly scholarly, but fun.
Elizabeth
Nov 17, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Spiral Jetty is one of my favourite artworks ever and I hope one day to go to it. This author's journey was humourous and thoughtful.
Matt
Jul 11, 2011 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was on the $5 table of U of Chicago Press at the Printer's Row Book Fair, and it caught my eye. I liked it.
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