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Michael Heizer Photo

Michael Heizer

American Land and Enviromental Artist

Movements and Styles: Land Art, Environmental Art

Born: November 4, 1944 - Berkeley, California

Michael Heizer Timeline

"As long as you're going to make a sculpture, why not make one that competes with a 747, or the Empire State Building, or the Golden Gate Bridge."

Michael Heizer Signature

Summary

Michael Heizer brought the childhood fascination of 'playing in the sand' to entirely new levels! His large-scale sculptures, set in specific environments so as to create dialogue with the land, helped pioneer Earth or Land art, a distinctly American art movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Shunning the commercial art market and its product, Heizer took the art experience out of the austere gallery setting and placed it synergistically in the landscape, using the earth as his medium and canvas. A location-scouter par excellence, Heizer is an early proponent of the concept of site-specificity, which becomes key to later postmodern artists involved in installation and public art. Along with Walter de Maria, Robert Smithson, and others, Heizer's pioneering work coincided with and perhaps gave momentum to the larger social and political environmental movement in the United States, with its ethic of environmental restoration, preservation, and consciousness. Like Earth Day, Earth art is very much a product of its time.

Key Ideas

Heizer's innovation comes with his rejection of traditional understandings of sculpture, where volume or mass is manipulated at the hands of a virtuoso carver or welder. In Heizer's work, volume is an absence rather than a presence, a void usually left as a result of displacement. Thus, he invites us to contemplate space, land, and our relationship to it.
While Heizer's projects are ambitious and grand in scale, the results are often subtle and poetic. He re-introduces 19th century Romantic art's interest in the sublime, where contemplation of the infinite leads to feelings of transcendence. These metaphysical aspects, coupled with the artist's secluded, modest life, also echo Eastern philosophies - of interest to many in his generation.
While viewers are familiar with geometric forms and the play of volume and interpenetrating space from earlier modernist sculpture, Heizer is first to magnify and superimpose those concerns on the land. Likewise, while artists had been idealizing geometry for millennia, none had previously imposed geometry at such a scale into the organic landscape.
In offering a measure of perceptual disorientation, disequilibrium, and optical illusion through his sculptural environments, Heizer spoke metaphorically about our relationship to the land, raising environmental consciousness.
By surrendering control to the elements, letting his work decay and disappear, Heizer helped to usher in the idea of impermanence as an aesthetic choice. His short-lived projects emphasized time and duration, very much in common with the concurrent ideas in Happenings and Performance Art.
Michael Heizer Photo

Michael Madden Heizer was born on November 4, 1944 in Berkeley, California, where he lived for most of his childhood. His parents were Robert Heizer and Nancy Elizabeth Jenkins. Making structures always came naturally to Heizer, and he began creating small-scale cities at the age of six. Out on the school yard, he used found objects, cans, glass, and rocks and built a small city on a nearby hill. The school's janitor destroyed Heizer's structure, but the principal recognized the young sculptor's potential and allowed him to rebuild.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Michael Heizer
Interactive chart with Michael Heizer's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Show influences

Artists

Walter de MariaWalter de Maria
Tony SmithTony Smith
Carl AndreCarl Andre
Henry MooreHenry Moore
Barbara HepworthBarbara Hepworth

Personal Contacts

Heiner FriedrichHeiner Friedrich
Virginia DwanVirginia Dwan

Movements

MinimalismMinimalism
Modern SculptureModern Sculpture
Influences on Artist
Influences on Artist
Michael Heizer
Michael Heizer
Years Worked: 1960s - Present
Influenced by Artist
Influenced by Artist

Artists

James TurrellJames Turrell
Robert SmithsonRobert Smithson
Maya LinMaya Lin
Richard SerraRichard Serra
Andy GoldsworthyAndy Goldsworthy

Personal Contacts

Richard BellamyRichard Bellamy
Sam WagstaffSam Wagstaff

Movements

Land ArtLand Art
Environmental ArtEnvironmental Art

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 15 Jul 2016. Updated and modified regularly. Information
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