Ancient stone circles survive at scattered sites in many parts of Long's native England, relics of the country's distant past. In evoking these local and age-old forms, Cornish Stone Circle bypasses the classical tradition of sculpture in favor of "primitive" art, an influence on artists since the early twentieth century. Long's art, however, also inflects more recent ideas.
Like certain Minimalist sculptures, Cornish Stone Circle has no base or pedestal, no height to speak of, nor is it even an intact mass. More, its mass is mutable: the circle must be three meters in radius, and its fifty-two rough stones must be stably situated, evenly distributed and separated, and randomly arranged, but otherwise their placement is open to change. Long's most searching revision of the character of the art object, however, has to do with his relationship with the natural environment. Like other earthworks artists, he is attracted to outdoor, often remote, terrain, where he may pile stones, mark a path, or simply take a long walk; later he may exhibit photographs, maps, or written descriptions of these actions, for his work shares Conceptual art's concern with the different experiences conveyed by different visual and verbal systems. In this context, Cornish Stone Circle becomes not only a sculptural configuration but a way of representing a far-off place, through the presence of materials gathered there.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 301.