Richard Long

A Line in Bolivia - Kicked Stones (2 Versions)


Not on display

Richard Long born 1945
Photograph, black and white, on board
Support: 1210 × 883 mm
frame: 1249 × 884 × 41 mm
Purchased 1981

Display caption

A key element in Long’s art is the way he imposes order on objects he has found or collected at random. He often arranges naturally-occurring forms into circles or straight lines. There is often a tension between the orderliness of such arrangements and more random elements. This duality is introduced here by the fact that the stones have been arranged into a rectangular pattern by the relatively haphazard process of kicking.

Gallery label, March 2004

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Catalogue entry


Not inscribed
Black and white photograph mounted on board with handwritten text, 48 3/4 × 37 5/8 (124 × 88.5)


Alternative version
Not inscribed
Black and white photograph mounted on board with handwritten text, 34 1/2 × 47 3/4 (88.1 × 121)
Purchased from Anthony d'Offay Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
Exh: Richard Long, Anthony d'Offay, June–July 1981 (no catalogue, listed on duplicated sheet)

This entry is based on information supplied by the artist in conversation (20 October 1981) and in two letters (22 October 1981 and 23 December 1982). It has been edited and approved by him.

This work, which the Tate owns in two alternative formats, shows one of four stone line sculptures made by Richard Long during a walk in Bolivia in February–March 1981. On this occasion he travelled with Hamish Fulton and the two artists prepared for the journey by visiting the Royal Geographical Society in London to consult maps of Bolivia. By chance, they located a shaded area, described only as ‘rocky’, on the Altiplano, (the high Bolivian plateau which borders Chile and runs between the East and West Chains of the Andes). They decided to visit this region and Long told the compiler that while he often sets out with some prior knowledge of the landscape he plans to walk in, he discovered this area by chance and although he had a good suspicion that it would prove interesting, he had no preconceived ideas about the type of work that would suggest itself once he arrived there.

Having reached La Paz in Bolivia, Long and Fulton travelled by train towards Chile, disembarking at Perez, a small railway settlement in a river valley on the edge of the area they wished to explore. (The railway was particularly important in relation to their walk, as the area was inaccessible by road). The following day, they started their walk, heading south and climbing out of the valley to 15,000 feet, to reach a high lava plateau bordered by mountains, this stone landscape combining large rocks, small canyons and flat areas of rock covered with smaller stones.

The walk itself lasted two weeks and during that time Long made three stone lines on the plateau and a further line in different terrain on the other side of the mountains. This last is recorded in the form of a colour slide (as yet untitled), which he has since presented to students as part of a slide show with music.

Of the three stone line sculptures he made on the plateau, two involved moving and placing the stones by hand. The first of these was formed by clearing the surface of its covering of small loose stones in order to reveal a thin strip of smooth ground. Long has presented two framed photographic versions of this, ‘A Line with Tracks in Bolivia’, which was exhibited with T03298 at the Anthony d'Offay Gallery in 1981 and ‘A Line with Tracks and a Storm in Bolivia’. This is a photograph of the same line but taken later on the walk, when the artist passed the site again on his return journey, during an afternoon lightning storm. Both versions are now in a private collection in Italy.

A different view of the first of the two versions, ‘A Line with Tracks...’, was used for the announcement card, poster and book published for Long's exhibition at the Centre d'Arts Plastiques Contemporains, Bordeaux (December 1981–January 1982) and another view of ‘A Line with Track and a Storm...’ appeared on the card for his 1981 exhibition at the d'Offay Gallery.

For the second line he made by hand, Long cleared part of the plateau's surface in two parallel lines, leaving a broad central band of stones, and adding to this the stones he had removed from around it. This work is also recorded in two photographs, both titled ‘A Line in Bolivia’. The photographs, which were taken at around the same time, show vertical and horizontal views of the line and were first exhibited at Art and Project in Amsterdam (January–February 1982). The vertical view was subsequently included in Documenta 7 (Kassel, 1982) and again both versions are now in a private collection, in Italy.

In contrast to the other two lines made on this Bolivian walk, Long made the one recorded in T03298 in a more casual manner by kicking into place loose stones he found scattered across the site, a procedure which seemed to him appropriate to that particular area. Although all his sculptures are made in straightforward ways, he has compared his spontaneous reaction to the place in this instance, to work he made on an earlier walk in Mexico (‘The Sierra Madre-A 5 Day Walk from Divisadero down into the Canyon of the Rio Urique and Back-Mexico’ 1979). One of his actions on the Mexican walk was to throw stones into the River Urique, making an unseen pile on the river bed and causing water to splash against the rock face opposite, and photographing the splash marks. [These photographs are reproduced in Long's book, Mexico 1979, published by the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven in 1982 and are part of a five panel photo work called ‘The Sierra Madre’ (National Museum of Canada)].

As with the other Bolivian works discussed here, ‘A Line in Bolivia-Kicked Stones’ exists in two main versions, a vertical and a horizontal view photographed from slightly different angles. The two panels are part of the same work but they are intended to be exhibited separately, not as a pair.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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