seven magic mountains
via Flickr/anokarina

Las Vegas is already a pretty wild city. But if you’re looking for something that’s less “showgirls-and-high-rollers” wild and more “I-never-knew-this-existed” wild, then you need only head 15 minutes out of the city and into the desert. There, near Dry Jean Lake, you can find Seven Magic Mountains.

seven magic mountains
via Flickr/Eric E Castro

The man behind the mountains

Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone created Seven Magic Mountains. Seven pillars of huge, neon-hued boulders stretch up to the sky. They’re the only thing for miles around,  “creative expression of human presence in the desert.”

Ugo Rondinone is an internationally-renowned artist. His works range from neon signs to paintings to eerily realistic life-sized clown figures, sitting slumped over on the floor of a gallery. All of his works mesh everyday experiences and objects with colorful, fantastical, and often-strange elements. Seven Magic Mountains is one of his first forays outside of a gallery and into land art.

seven magic mountains
via Flickr/DesignMilk

Rondinone proposed Seven Magic Mountains in 2015, and it opened in 2016. Rondinone cut car-sized boulders from a nearby quarry in Nevada. He then had bright coats of neon paint added. After that, Rondinone stacked the rocks into towers.

Visiting Seven Magic Mountains

The display will be open for two years, between 2016 and 2018. It is just off I-15, the main route for travelers between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The rock stacks mimic stone cairns. Cairns were once used to mark the road for travelers making their way through unfamiliar and unsettled landscapes. What area remains more unexplored than the desert? While most land art blends into the landscape, the bright colors of Seven Magic Mountains makes it stick out. It’s like pop art-meets-land art.

via Flickr/Eric E Castro

Rondinone invites visitors to contemplate the desert space and its history of human intervention. “Seven Magic Mountains elicits continuities and solidarities between human nature, artificial and natural, then and now,” states Rondinone.

According to Rondinone, the location is physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial: the natural is expressed by the mountain ranges, desert, and Jean Dry Lake backdrop, and the artificial is expressed by the highway and the constant flow of traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. –Seven Magic Mountains

When you visit, you’ll find interpretive signs and a rough dirt path… and not much else. There’s a guide-by-cell offering, however, that you can take advantage of during your trip. Simply call the phone number and follow along as you get an in-depth tour of the totems. And definitely heed the warning signs to watch out for snakes! Also, make sure to bring water and snacks. You’ll probably want sunscreen, as well. Because there aren’t many stops nearby, come prepared.

seven magic mountains
via Flickr/anokarina

Beyond the desert

The Nevada Museum of Art‘s Center for Art + Environment made Seven Magic Mountains possible. If you’re craving more thought-provoking (and highly Instagram-able) art during your trip to Nevada, make a journey out to the Reno-based museum. Many hope that Seven Magic Mountains will help people appreciate the beauty of the desert, and, as a result, inspire them to explore it more. In addition to Seven Magic Mountains, you’ll find tons of stops just off I-15. Bottle Tree Ranch and Zzyzx are stops to visit in addition to these mysterious pillars.

seven magic mountains
via Flickr/Eric E Castro

The massive appeal of the art installation is undeniable. Just check the Instagram location for “Seven Magic Mountains”. Lots of people have come from all over to see (and post pictures of) the pillars. The brightly colored pillars almost make the desert look like an alien landscape. That’s probably why it’s so popular with the Instagram crowd. But, its popularity is best summed up by an anonymous fan from this Pret-a-Reporter article on the piece: “We spend so much money trying to be happy, and who knew a bunch of colorful rocks could make people so happy?”

More incredible art to discover…

How to visit these otherworldly sandstone caves, carved by an obsessed artist

The mysterious, massive, mythical, and metal Borrego Springs sculptures

The Hand of the Desert summons adventurous roadtrippers

 

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