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The Monumental Weight of Michael Heizer
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Michael Heizer is a legend. His name carries so much weight that I hold my breath before I round the corner of any museum where he’s featured. His “negative sculptures” at Dia Beacon terrify and tempt me while “Levitated Mass” at LACMA in Los Angeles dares visitors to walk under a 340-ton boulder. Heizer’s 50-years-in-the-making sculpture “City” will be one of the largest sculptures ever built when it’s completed. You feel Michael Heizer’s sculptures in your gut, and this current exhibition of new sculpture is no exception at Gagosian Gallery in New York.

Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery2

Installation view, 2022

Gagosian Gallery holds five new sculptures from Michael Heizer’s “Rock/Steel series,” created in his Nevada studio over a 4-year period. Each sculpture in an interaction between a 14-23 ton boulder extracted from a quarry in Riverside, California, and a pair of huge interlocking steel polygons. In total, each sculpture weights 27-40 tons.

Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery 3

Installation view, 2022

Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery 4

Installation view, 2022

Beyond the play of danger and lyrical beauty, each sculpture is a paradox of weight. Heizer has the unique ability to transmit the gravity of extreme mass. Though there are larger boulders in Central Park, none feel as heavy as these.

But that weight is in contrast with the visual “lightness” of the steel. The flat surfaces neither bend nor buckle under the rocks and barely touch the floor. The pairing of those two opposites is as beautiful as it is unsettling. I’m entranced and nervous, as if circling a sleeping beast.

Detail image Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery 1

Installation view, 2022

Detail image Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery 2

Installation view, 2022

Detail image Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery 3

Installation view, 2022

Detail image Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery 5

Installation view, 2022

Detail image Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery 6

Installation view, 2022

Michael Heizer Installation View at Gagosian Gallery 5

Installation view, 2022

The exhibition is on view at Gagosian Gallery through April 16th. Visit, stay, and circle each work to experience the play of forms, mass, material, and balance. If you’re new to Heizer, I highly recommend watching this documentary about the journey of the aforementioned 340-ton-boulder in Los Angeles in 2012. Here’s the trailer:

What: Michael Heizer
Where: Gagosian Gallery, 21st St, New York, NY
When: March 3 – April 16, 2022

Installation images © Michael Heizer. Photographed by Rob McKeever
Detail images photographed by David Behringer, with express permission from Gagosian Gallery

David Behringer visits over 200 galleries every month to uncover and share the most exciting contemporary art in New York today. Subscribe to his exclusive weekly newsletter at www.thetwopercent.com and learn about his private gallery tours. And be sure to check out his YouTube.