Ugo Rondinone's Day-glo painted Seven Magic Mountains

Another roadside attraction

March 25, 2021

Photo Credit: Carol Madigan

   I’d like to say that this kind of homage to the ridiculous can only be found in America. But the first one of these that I saw was in Liverpool, UK in 2019, and the only reason I saw that one was because Carol had seen this other one just outside Las Vegas years earlier.

   I’m not generally a fan of modern art, mainly because I have this Philistine-like suspicion that I’m being had. Like with Pop Tarts and “But wait, there’s more” TV ads. And when a piece of modern art sells for millions, I consider it a cogent commentary on the same mentality here that brought us fascism and Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

   My biggest objection to the sculpture was that it was located “on the way home” from Las Vegas. Carol thought that would be a point in its favor, but I don’t like anything being “on the way home,” except home itself.

   But this stone “sculpture,” located just off the I-15 near Vegas might just have them all beat in terms of the art-for-arts-sake-and-wasting-time-for-wasting-time-sake aesthetic statement.

   Interpretively,  Ugo Rondinone’s Day-glo painted Seven Magic Mountains is reportedly an expression of the missing link between the natural rock formations of the Las Vegas Valley and the glitz of the Vegas Strip. It had been scheduled to be taken down in 2018, but its sustained popularity (it’s visited by an estimated 1000 Missing Links per day) has kept the lovable neon cairns going strong now far into the future.

   As normal, it was Carol’s idea to visit the site on the way home. She reminded me it was the same sculpture and sculptor we had seen in Liverpool. I nodded, but it was the kind of nod Carol has come to recognize as not having any recollection of what she is talking about. Even when we came upon it from a distance, it didn’t seem familiar to me. Upon it, it looked more like toy blocks belonging to The Thing’s baby son, rather than any metaphysical meditation on oppositions (nature versus art), etc. But that’s just me.

   My biggest objection to the sculpture was that it was located “on the way home” from Las Vegas. Carol thought that would be a point in its favor, but I don’t like anything being “on the way home,” except home itself. Once I’m going, I like to keep going, as I’ve indicated before in my travels. When Carol said it’s off the main drag by seven miles, my heart sank. But the seven mile access road runs parallel to the I-15, meaning you can get back on the 15 without backtracking. That alone made it my own favorite roadside attraction to date (I once passed on what was probably my only easy shot at Mt. Rushmore, because I would have had to backtrack back to the Interstate.)

   For those few who are curious (and few you must be, if you’re reading my blogs to satisfy your curiosity about things) Ugo built the painted stones outside Vegas to contrast the local landscape’s brown and grey, while he assembled the Liverpool Mountain to contrast the grey of that city’s weather. Okay, I say, if that’s your cup of tea. What contrasted the brown and grey of Nevada’s and western California’s landscape for me was the Jersey Mike’s we happened upon in the little nondescript town of Baker, CA. Art may be in the eye of the beholder, but a turkey and provolone dressed and drizzled with oil and vinegar is a bite to behold along the way home.

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