Magic in the Mojave: The Desert Art of Ugo Rondinone

Brightly colored 30-foot-tall totems lighting up the desert sky
Brightly colored 30-foot-tall totems lighting up the desert sky
Photo credit: Seven Magic Mountains

Renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone wants to promote the “creative expression of human presence in the desert.” His large-scale public art installation, titled “Seven Magic Mountains,” does that and more. It is a towering display of seven, colorful towers that soar above the landscape, just outside of Las VegasNevada.

Rondinone describes his project as a symbolic bridge between the natural and artificial. The New York-based artist says, “Seven Magic Mountains elicits continuities and solidarities between human nature, artificial and natural, then and now.”

The towers are made of limestone boulders and painted in bright, neon colors that contrast with the surrounding desert landscape. The project was produced by the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno and the Art Production Fund, New York and opened in 2016. Originally set as a two-year project, “Seven Magic Mountains” has experienced so much success that Rondinone is exploring ways to keep the installation open to the public at its current site in the Mojave. For now, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has extended the project through the end of 2021.

While there is little else surrounding the artwork except for desert wildlife and the hot Nevada sun, visitors can use their mobile devices for a “tour by cell” that explains the installation and the purpose behind it. Snacks, water, and sunscreen are recommended, as well as a keen eye for the native desert snakes that inhabit the terrain.

As one awestruck visitor put it, “We spend so much money trying to be happy, and who knew a bunch of colorful rocks could make people so happy?” As “Seven Magic Mountains” continues to attract and inspire visitors, Ugo Rondinone hopes that it will instill an appreciation of the natural landscape of the Mojave and encourage them to explore it.