Obama’s new national monuments preserve landscape and protect Michael Heizer’s “City”

Art Preservation West
45°, 90°, 180° from City sculpted out of concrete and dirt. (Triple Aught Foundation. Courtesy LACMA)

45°, 90°, 180° from Heizer’s City sculpted out of concrete and dirt. (Triple Aught Foundation. Courtesy LACMA)

In an act that preserved more than a million acres from development, President Obama designated three new national monuments in California, Nevada, and Texas. While the monument in central Texas protects an archeological site where Columbian Mammoths fossils were unearthed, and Berryessa Snow Mountain, the California location, staves off potential suburban encroachment, it is the Nevada monument that holds the most excitement for those with an interest in Land Art.

Complex I from City stretches out across the Nevada desert. (Tom Vinetz/Triple Aught Foundation. Courtesy LACMA)

Complex I from City stretches out across the Nevada desert. (Tom Vinetz/Triple Aught Foundation. Courtesy LACMA)

Located about 150 miles north of Las Vegas, the Basin and Range National Monument contains within its borders City by Michael Heizer, the sculptor behind Levitated Mass. The artist began working on the piece in the 1970s and in the decades since, he’s sculpted dirt, rocks, and concrete into a mile-long geometric structure reminiscent of an urban form.

In January, AN reported that the pristine desert plain where the was under threat when Nevada Senator Harry Reid’s Garden Valley Withdrawal Act failed to pass. Now, the land and more than 800,000 square miles of adjacent federal property in Garden Valley will remain unspoiled and free from industrial activity.

SATELLITE IMAGE OF MICHAEL HEIZER’S “CITY” (GOOGLE MAPS)

SATELLITE IMAGE OF MICHAEL HEIZER’S CITY (GOOGLE MAPS)

LACMA director Michael Govan is a vocal supporter of Heizer and City. In May he and Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, making a case to protect the Nevada landscape and the artwork.

“Designating the Basin and Range National Monument achieves two remarkable outcomes—a world-class artwork would endure into the future as it was envisioned, surrounded by sublimely beautiful open country; and a majestic Western American landscape would remain unspoiled for future generations,” commented Govan in a statement from the museum.

Complex II, a part of Heizer's City. (Tom Vinetz/Triple Aught Foundation. Courtesy LACMA)

Complex II, a part of Heizer’s City. (Tom Vinetz/Triple Aught Foundation. Courtesy LACMA)

This past spring Govan and art critic Dave Hickey discussed the importance of artwork operating at the scale of landscape. The ambitious undertaking provoked comments from Hickey, which were captured in a Huffington Post report.

“Artists are all the time trying to occupy ordinary spaces… But to do a city? That is really cool,” he said. “It means that you can walk along one area and take a right and see some absolutely strange thing that you have never seen before, and walk along there until you see something else you’ve never seen before.”

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