Friday, September 7, 2012

Designer of the Month: Michael Heizer

Michael Heizer (b.1944), September's Designer of the Month, is a bit of an odd figure. There's no denying that he's a man with quite a clear and abiding artistic vision, a quality that certainly has to be admired. Then again, as an artist who lives in the the middle of nowhere, Nevada, who creates artwork that can be difficult to comprehend, often with a very long-term vision; he's also been called a paranoid recluse, and worse. But a rural desert setting, especially one as remote as where Heizer lives, does make sense within the context of his work. Because, you see, Heizer, like his friend and contemporary, Robert Smithson, is a sculptor and landscape artist who specializes in those massive, outdoor artworks created in nature, commonly called Earthworks, or Land Art. Now, the exact origins of the Earthworks movement of the 1960s are somewhat contested, but it's most well-known advocates and innovators were that of Smithson, Heizer and Walter De Maria. A motley bunch, for sure, but innovators, every one.

Michael Heizer. Simon Norfolk/NB Pictures, for The New York Times

Heizer was born in Berkeley, California. He briefly attended the San Francisco Art Institute from 1963-64, studying painting and sculpture, and moved to New York in 1966.[1] It was during this period of the mid-late 1960, at the same time as he was making large-scale, shaped, "negative" paintings in his NYC studio, that Heizer began a series of trips back west to California and Nevada to experiment with creating art within the desert landscape.[2] These Earthworks, a movement that would change the landscape of the art world as well as the Earth itself, would come to define Heizer's career. During the month of September, we'll take a look at some of these remarkable works and the man behind them. I hope you'll join me.

[1] Dia Art Foundation online, "Exhibitions: Michael Heizer, Artist Biography,", (accessed September 6, 2012).

[2] Michael Govan, "Exhibitions: Michael Heizer, Introduction," Dia Art Foundation online,, (accessed September 6, 2012).

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