The figure is enormous, almost 200 feet wide. It took 450 people to construct it. This horse is one of the dozens of pieces Rogers has scattered over all seven continents.
You’ve never heard of him, right? Not surprising.
Although he has been doing some of the largest artworks in the world, Andrew Rogers has not generated the kind of comment or respect accorded many others who use the planet as a canvas.
Perhaps that’s because this lean Australian is a bit of a maverick, an outlier. Perhaps it has to do with the quality of his art. Even his harshest critics — and he does have his critics — can’t deny that he’s made his mark on the planet.
In China, he laid the figure of a horseman across the hills of the Gobi Desert using 1,000 members of the People’s Liberation Army. In the high desert of Chile, Rogers employed 550 local people over two years to build three stone structures. The most striking looks like a flattened lizard from the air. It’s actually based on an image of a two-headed llama carved more than 1,000 years ago.
Near a 12th-century castle in Slovakia, he constructed ribbons of rock that form the outline of a spindly legged horse, a symbol from a 2,000-year-old coin found nearby. In the Mojave Desert, his crew of local workers and Mexican stone masons had to deal with 100-mph winds while building an abstract Native American hunting symbol, a circle with a line through it.
In the Antarctic, at the foot of the Dakshin Gangotri Glacier, he built a temporary “Rhythms of Life” image, using local gravel on a frozen lake.
‘People thought I was crazy’
Rogers, the restless spirit behind these Brobdingnagian projects, lives in Melbourne, on the southern coast of Australia. He recently had a kangaroo bang into his car while traveling home from his studio outside of town. A spare, intense man who works 80-hour weeks, he is described as a person who knows exactly what he wants. “He is one of the most goal-oriented people I’ve ever met,” says Golan Levi, an Israeli architect who has worked with Rogers for years.
Rogers, 65, is not a starving artist and never has been. Although he has been interested in art all his life, he had a successful career as a businessman, running an apparel company founded by his father. He says that’s part of the reason he is not interested in making a lot of money from his art. “You can only eat so much.”
When he was in the business world, he also taught logistics at a local university, expertise that came in handy when organizing projects involving hundreds of workers in spartan landscapes.
In 1979, he took a very bumpy plane ride across the desert of Southern Peru to look at the mysterious Nazca Lines, created on a dry, windless plain 1,500 years ago. Primitive people etched huge geometric figures as well as images of hummingbirds, sharks, monkeys, spiders and humans into surface of the Earth by scraping away the red soil to reveal white earth below.