He saw the images – what limited images there are – snapshots of the wonders of nature made even more wondrous.
Rows of towering right triangles jutting into the sky in precise geological symmetry; mounds of earth shaped into angular, carefully articulated shapes; perfectly maintained depressions that seem to have been carved out by an ancient river long gone.
It’s the geometry of the desert basically – unbelievably large – a mile and a half long and a half mile wide.
These are the dimensions of “City”, the monumental sculpture – in the truest sense of the word – by renowned earth artist Michael Heizer, leading figure in the Earthworks movement, who first rose to prominence in the 1960s. and 70 with art. largely created with natural materials in non-urban environments.
Nestled in the high desert of Lincoln County, Nevada, three hours north of Las Vegas, “City” took 42 years to create, achieving near-mythological status in art circles.
William L. Fox, director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada, has written a comprehensive account of Heizer’s works based on his unique access to the reclusive artist, “Michael Heizer: The Once and The Once and Future Monuments”, and also visited “City” several times in the late 90s and early 2000s.
A few photos of Heizer’s progress since have been featured in various publications lately, hinting at the vast scope of the project, which has cost around $40 million to produce since Heizer began work on it in 1970.
“We have these really tantalizing glimpses of something that starts out as a very strange juxtaposition in the desert,” Fox says. “Here’s this shape of a bunker with these concrete forms right in front of it – if you stand a certain distance away they snap into a frame. When you see that in the desert, ‘OK, that’s really cool.’
“And then you start seeing everything around it,” he continues, “this slow accretion of the city itself, with all these different complexes, and it just gets better and better. It’s just like, ‘Wow, when is this going to open, when can we see it?’ It’s a big problem.
This moment has finally arrived.
On September 2, “City” will finally open to the public.
It won’t be easy to live with: but six visitors will be allowed in daily, and only on certain days/times of the year when the weather is deemed suitable. Reservations can be made through the website of the Nevada-based nonprofit Triple Aught Foundation (tripleaughtfoundation.org), which owns and operates “City.” Tickets are $150 for adults, $100 for students, and free for residents of Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine counties.
Tours will end for the 2022 season on November 1.
Those who land a reservation should travel to nearby Alamo, Nevada, where they will be picked up and taken to the site and allowed to tour the premises for a few hours.
Putting Nevada on the art map
Fox first discovered Heizer when an image of a section of “City,” “Complex One,” appeared on the cover of a national art magazine in the early ’70s.
“It was like, ‘Whoa, what is that?’ He recalls. “As someone from Nevada, someone who works here, you haven’t seen Nevada in ‘Art in America’ or ‘Art Forum’ very often. It was the first big contemporary thing we saw happening in Nevada.
“Heizer is not a Nevada artist,” he continues, “he’s very clear about that, but on the other hand, he has deep roots here, and the work was done here, so we have everyone was shocked.”
As Fox alludes, Heizer was born in Berkeley, California, where his father, Robert F. Heizer, was an archaeologist at the University of California, Berkeley. But her father grew up in Lovelock, Nevada, and the family has long-standing ties to the area.
When the U.S. Courthouse and Bruce R. Thompson’s Federal Building in Reno were built in the mid-1990s, one percent of its budget was to be spent on art, with Heizer earning a commission for his nearly 30 feet. Sculpture “Perforated Object”.
Fox was on the selection committee and spoke approvingly of Heizer’s work.
The two hit it off and Fox would later visit “City”.
“To be embedded in a very formal minimalist architecture that echoes – echoes the munitions bunkers in Hawthorne, Nevada, echoes so many shapes around the world, Egyptian pyramids, Mesopotamian, all kinds of things – to be in the middle of something thing like that at the same time that you’re alive, it’s impressive,” he said, seeing “City” as it was being created. “And that’s exactly how Heizer wants you to feel.”
Keys to the “City”
To further illustrate this point, Fox cites another of Heizer’s works, “Levitated Mass” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a massive boulder placed over a walkway.
“When Heizer does these really big works – like the rock in Los Angeles, it hangs over a big trench, it’s the biggest rock moved in contemporary times, you can walk under that rock – it’s what he wants you to feel is religious fear, basically,” Fox says. “The same is true of ‘City’ – so that’s what you feel. You feel like you are in the presence of something otherworldly and more than yourself and in direct connection with the mountains and the desert around you.
Having written extensively about Heizer, Fox understands the story of “City” – as well as the story that will soon be written.
“Beyond anything else, because it started in the early 1970s, you go back to the golden age of land art and minimalism as it’s worked out in the country,” he explains. he.
“And so it carries with it that kind of mythical presence in our heads, because it’s the greatest example of that on the planet – if not the greatest sculpture on the planet,” he continues. “Everyone is waiting to see how it works.”
Contact Jason Bracelin at [email protected] or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram