the location of "city" isn't undisclosed, you fucking tool - I was just there a month ago, there are references to it all over the net. try doing a little research next time, you might approach VICE magazine level journalism then - but probably not.
By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
I drove 341 miles to see Michael Heizer's 1970 artwork Double Negative, but I have not walked the 150 yards from LACMA's ticket booth to see his freshly installed Levitated Mass. I've been to the museum since the 340-ton boulder was consecrated, but I haven't yet ambled behind the Resnick Pavilion to actually glance at it. Perhaps if Heizer has the hubris to plunk it there, I can have the hubris not to look. The real answer, of course, for my long trek versus my willful ignorance is a bit more subtle and perhaps more timely.
A 1,500-foot-long, 50-foot-deep, 30-foot-wide trough cut with dynamite out of one of many mesas in the Nevada desert, Double Negative defines a movement that later became known as "land art," a curious outcropping of minimalism currently receiving a survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Geffen Contemporary. MOCA also happens to own Double Negative, having acquired it during a survey of Heizer's work in 1984; owns it as much as anyone can own 240,000 tons worth of displaced matter. (One of the hallmarks of land art is an obsession with figures, costs and weights — this much money, that many pounds, so many years to make it happen: a game for artists-as-engineers.)
I didn't plan the trip — my friend Sarah did — and with a last-minute cancellation from her original travel companions, I lucked in as her passenger, trawling the yawning expanses of the Southwest in her diminutive car. Besides Heizer's work, we stopped in at Walter de Maria's The Lightning Field (1977) and Las Vegas, two other American monuments of human will and engineering cut out of the parched desert dust.
Forty years after Double Negative, despite land art's brave attempts to escape the museum, it has been crowbarred back in, and all those original earthworks have become roadside attractions of a kind. The more educated tourists plan their road trips around them, between the crystal depots and national parks. Some art enthusiasts simply fly in, snap a few pictures and fly out.
The whole package of land art seen as such had always rubbed me the wrong way: megalomaniacal artists carving their egos into the "blank" canvas of the desert, their actions mirroring industrial atrocities wrecking the environment, the vacationing, black-clad smart set parachuting into rural communities to have their sublimity mediated.
Despite my skepticism, I still gladly went on the road, taking the 101 to the 5 to a long stretch of the 15, the miles of highway ticking away as we pulled past the urban sprawl and into the naked desert. Out of the sands erupted the incredibly strange oasis of Las Vegas. Sarah and I wandered among the sweaty crowds through the creepy opulence of its sheer size and simulations: the acres of psychedelic carpet, the toilet-bowl blue of the Venetian canals at the Bellagio, the price of a sandwich at L.A.'s own Cantor's at the Treasure Island tripling in price and halving in quality. A mallish nightmare of noise and light and tawdry longings.
The next day, we were mercifully back on the highway, into the profound quietude of the desert. The dashed lines flickered down a long ribbon of black asphalt, until the asphalt turned to gravel, turning again to a hard, rocky stretch of almost road, the navigating of which Sarah's tiny car had never been designed for. With no signs to guide us, we fumbled with a cellphone, fingering the screen, looking for directions and counting the digits as the tenths of a mile rumbled by.
We almost gave up. Stepping out of the car and into the lunar landscape, we stepped on sharp, sticky shrubs with our hiking boots. We pocketed interesting stones to share. We felt smothered and defeated by the heat. We wandered. A cheery bunch of sun-burned Scandinavian art tourists drove by in a glimmering black SUV and we compared notes. Their buoyant good cheer prompted us to keep looking. We continued. And finally, we found it.
A huge wound blown out of the mesa, with no ropes, no signs. I recognized it, though, from a half-remembered '70s snapshot glowing with nostalgia in some forgotten art history textbook. We stumbled down the rocks into the chasm. The walls were pocked and marked by years of rock slides, but still present were some of the good, clean cuts of the original dynamite. The nostalgic glow was absent, forcing Sarah to re-create it via Instagram. Although Heizer has said again and again that pictures fail to properly represent it — i.e., you really have to be there — we were there, and of course were taking pictures of ourselves being there.
Looking at this rocky cut, I felt like just another mirage dancing in the flatlands that stretched beneath the bright and bitter blue of the desert sky. Heizer in describing Double Negative originally used the phrase "negative sculpture," attempting to prove that a dynamited absence could be a kind of sculpture, too, another expression of art.
Minimalism (and land art by extension) emerged from a moment in American art when artists had a few problems they were trying to solve. Many wished to finally, fully break from the European traditions — a break that began with the abstract expressionism of Guston, Pollock and others — and establish a truly American art. The pop artists looked out and saw the ubiquity of popular culture and used that. Heizer and his contemporaries saw plywood, concrete and steel; dynamite and dirt bikes felt truer as tools than brushes and kilns.