Adrián Villar Rojas Untitled, from the series Return the World 2012

  • Not on view

For Adrián Villar Rojas, clay suggests a time before and after human existence. "I tried to imagine how it would be to look at the planet and human culture from the perspective of an alien: absolute horizontality and lack of prejudice," he has stated. "There are no scales of values, but commitment to a deep state of detachment and distance, which is also reflected in the use of time: remote future and absence of humans; remote past and origins of life." Made to be exhibited outdoors in Kassel, Germany, the work was fabricated and first shown at the international exhibition documenta (13) as part of Return the World, a series that originated with the study of organic detritus and fragments of raw materials found at the site. The sculpure appears to be a life-size cast of the remains of a tree trunk, although it was actually inspired by an animal bone. Villar Rojas used unfired clay combined with cement to create a porous and cracking surface that seems to be on the verge of decomposing. The notion of ephemerality is a central aspect of the artist's work. As the title implies, the sculpture can be seen as an appeal to halt human activities that negatively impact Earth's geology. Villar Rojas's art focuses on processes of accumulation, displacement, and entropy to reveal the principle of causality

as captured in the transformation of materials.

Gallery label from Unfinished Conversations, March 19-July 30, 2017.
Unfired clay, cement, wood, and metal
78 3/4 x 55 1/8" (200 x 140 cm)
Fund for the Twenty-First Century
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].