September 28, 2022

Birth of a monumental work of art: Michael Heiser City opens in the harsh Nevada desert after 50 years | sculpture

TAmerican artist Michael Heizer has never stated his intention to do so cityIt is a huge, sprawling complex of hills, geoglyphs, and concrete pyramids nestled in an inaccessible, sweltering high desert. Nevadaabout three hours northwest of Las Vegas.

But after a 50-year wait, this week visitors finally have the chance to start shaping their own interpretations of the 77-year-old land artist’s work. Sculpture is not ritualistic and may not be fully understandable or necessarily useful. Her presence alone may be her greatest strength.

“I can remember walking the earth with Michael in 1973. [There was] Nothing there but me, Michael, some scout signs and a lot of wind,” says Barbara Heizer, the artist’s ex-wife, who has spent 17 years in Nevada since 1974.

You remember that he had planned the entire project. “But maybe he didn’t think it would take that long. When you jump off a cliff like this, and you don’t have financial backing, it’s not easy. But he always wanted to get it done.”

Part of Michael Heizer City.
Part of Michael Heizer City. Photography: Ben Blackwell

cityMeasuring 1.5 miles long and half a mile wide, it joins a series of ground-breaking artworks that include Robert Smithson spiral pier in UtahAnd the Walter Di Maria lightning field in New Mexico and James Turrell Roden Crater In Arizona – Each collection was created by a loose group of artists who set out in the late 1960s to free art from the confines of gallery.

For a previous large-scale project, double errorHeiser, since 1969, cut a trench 1,500 feet long, 50 feet deep, and 30 feet wide on the slopes of Mormon Mesa in Nevada, which required blasting and excavating 240,000 tons of rock. “There is nothing there, and yet it is still sculpted,” the artist once said.

Since then, complete Many projectsIncluding raised massa 2012 oversized statue that caused crowds to line bridges and service roads for the Los Angeles Expressway as a 340-ton boulder was transported from East Los Angeles to the Los Angeles County Museum, proving that transporting giant stones is also contemporary to pre-occupied prehistoric times. Date.

Heizer in a cowboy hat with a big slab of rocks
American artist Michael Heiser is known for his monumental works. Photo: Isaac Brecken/The New York Times/Redux/Even

Heiser’s father was an archaeological anthropologist. Born in Berkeley, California, the artist traveled to Peru and Mexico as a teenager, and later to Egypt. “I think a lot of things were brewing for him in terms of his work at the time,” says Barbara Heizer. He always wanted to build city after, after double error. This was the plan from day one. It’s one person’s focus and point of view.”

city She found a supporter in the late US Senator Harry Reid, who was He is said to be intrigued project and Heizer’s embrace of the landscape. Reed helped disrupt proposals for a railroad to transport nuclear waste to a proposed storage facility under nearby Yucca Mountain.

The surrounding landscape was protected by the Obama administration, and city It is located within a 704,000-acre Basin and Field Monument, which also contains Native American sacred and cultural sites dating back 13,000 years. With regard to protecting the Earth, President Barack Obama noted that the Heyer Project is “one of the most ambitious examples of the distinctively American Land Art movement.”

View of part of the city.
View of part of the city. Photography: Joe Roma

Before city Art critic Dave Hickey wrote: “The roads, domes, and potholes within the excavation are elegantly restrained in long, serene Sumerian curves. They recreate our sense of distance and volume, so the complexity of city It reveals itself as a generous intervention in the desert … author and complete. “

It is not necessary to know Heiser’s intentions for sculpting. Smithson, an unappointed philosopher of the Land Art group, expressed an interest in redefining used mines and slag heaps, activating the sculptural aspect of human activity.

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“It’s a great piece of nature, out of the real world, in an art world that has so much to do with imagination, reason, irrationality, dreams and concepts,” says artist and critic Walter Robinson.

“Often when I see one of these art productions I think, ‘What a great job.’ It doesn’t matter if I like it or not, I am overwhelmed by the intensity of the artist’s ambition.”

For some earth artists, the material was the earth itself, hence the term “earth art,” and they proclaimed remaking art from scratch. In turn, they influenced a generation of artists, including – in Britain – Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy, who followed in making sculptures that were part of the Earth’s fabric, but often made their own projects more changeable with the natural world.

The Land Art movement emerged at a time when the environmental movement in the United States was taking shape. By creating work that is not interchangeable and requires engaging with the elements of the environment, Earth artists have invited the viewer to challenge their perceptions of art.

visitors city Sculpting will be limited to six per day, and Heiser has expressed concern that too much of it will harm the work.

but finished city Not everyone satisfied. Char Miller, Professor of Environmental Analysis and History at Pomona College in California, acknowledges Heiser’s dedication but questions “the motive of earth artists to tear up the earth because they thought they could do it better. This goes against environmental culture that argues that the integrity of places is the integrity of places and they are beautiful in the end.” itself”.

However, such arguments may detract little, if any, from Heiser’s achievement. Robinson is considered city “Mythical and atavistic”.

“It’s Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill only to have it roll again,” he says. “It has to be one of the greatest and most ambitious efforts an artist has ever made.”