Michael Heizer: Monumental Earthwork City Unveiled 




A monumental earthwork by Michael Heizer (born 1944) has been unveiled in Central Eastern Nevada. City is a monumental sculpture that is a mile and a half long and a half mile wide. It is a vast complex of shaped mounds and depressions made of compacted dirt, rock, and concrete. 

City is intentionally reminiscent of many ancient ceremonial constructions

Heizer is an American land artist specialising in large-scale and site-specific sculptures. Working largely outside the confines of the traditional art spaces of galleries and museums. In many ways, he has redefined sculpture in terms of size, mass, gesture, and process. A pioneer of 20th-century land art or Earthworks movement, he is widely recognised for sculptures and environmental structures made with earth-moving equipment, which he began creating in the American West in 1967. He currently lives and works in Hiko, Nevada

City is intentionally reminiscent of many ancient ceremonial constructions through its complexity and size, but its form is suggestive of the central hub or nucleus of a modern city. The City was developed and built by the artist from 1970 until today.

The project is located in an isolated valley within the high desert of the Great Basin that has been the grazing land for cattle and sheep for at least a century. Surrounded by primitive wilderness, it is near the bases of several mountain ranges of nearly 12,000 feet in elevation and near the White River narrows, which was active during the post-Pleistocene era. The Heizer family has inhabited Nevada since the 1800s, and the artist partly chose the City location because of its remoteness. Almost all elements within the City are made from basic materials—clay, sand, and rock—collected with minimally invasive means so that the native plants and wildlife may remain undisturbed. In June of 2015, the City and the area surrounding it, 704,000 acres in total, were proclaimed the Basin and Range National Monument to safeguard the area’s unique environment for the enjoyment of future generations.

City is owned and operated by the Triple Aught Foundation, a nonprofit institution based in Nevada. Work on the City has been aided over the last fifty years by organisational and financial support from institutions around the country, including the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; Dia Art Foundation, New York; Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland; Lannan Foundation, New Mexico; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Many private individuals have also contributed their money and time.

City will soon begin to receive visitors on September 2, 2022. Only short day trips will be possible for a maximum of six visitors, with prior reservations only, and only in favourable weather. City is on private property in rural terrain and has no habitable structures. Visiting without a pre-arranged visit is thus potentially dangerous, and it is strictly prohibited and is trespassing. Reservations for future visits may be requested by writing to info@tripleaughtfoundation.org.

Visitors will be accommodated on a first come, first serve basis, and visitations will end for the 2022 season on November 1. The price of a visit is $150/adult, $100/student, and is free (but with reservations still required) for residents of Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine, Nevada, counties.

The Triple Aught Foundation thanks its generous supporters. For a full list of donors, please visit our website this Autumn. Triple Aught Foundation respectfully acknowledges that City has been created within the ancestral territories of the Nuwu (Southern Paiute) and Newe (Western Shoshoni). They lived in and around the vicinity and called this land home, as their ancestors did before them.

Heizer began his artistic career in New York in 1966 with a series of geometric canvases painted with PVA latex. The following paintings, characterised by non-traditionally shaped canvases, demonstrate Heizer’s early exploration of positive and negative forms; such harmonies of presence and absence, matter and space, are essential to his art. Trapezoid Painting (1966) and Track Painting (1967) emphasise the perimeters of raw canvases by painting them black, while the white interiors are perceived as negative spaces. These hard-edged “displacement paintings” parallel the immense geometries he achieves when moving earth. The slate grey contours of U Painting (1975), for example, anticipate the shapes of the depressions and angular mounds that appear in his project City.

Top Photo: Michael Heizer, 45°, 90°, 180°, City, 1970-2022© Michael Heizer/ Triple Aught Foundation. Courtesy of the artist and Triple Aught Foundation. Photo: Ben Blackwell

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