Spanning the breadth and depth of the artist’s work in both sculpture and land art, Gagosian’s Paris in Le Bourget is currently presenting a body of work by Michael Heizer that moves from 1968 to the present. Over fifty years, Heizer has redefined the very idea of sculpture in his explorations of size, mass, and process. His earth-moving constructions, paintings, and drawings explore the dynamics of positive and negative space. With this show, the magnitude and nuance of his work is allowed to breathe at scale, presenting a body of works that underscore his evolution and incorporation of increasingly complex methodologies into his practice.
As a young artist in New York in the 1960s, Heizer began making “displacement paintings,” geometric canvases in light and dark tones, a series of works that would translate to his massive excavations in the Sierra Nevada mountains, writing this same concept of removal and absence across the face of the earth at immense scale. The evolution of this practice during 1968 with works like Ciliata and Slot Mass (both on view here), present this mode of removal and hollowing out. Heizer used wood to prop up his excavated gaps in the earth, and create negative spaces that managed to pose a sense of suspended tension and energy in the mountain landscapes. The works here are adaptations, to be sure, translated from wood to steel and presented as a permanent suspension rather than a temporary inversion of physical logic, but the same taut energy remains.
The exhibition also includes three paintings from the 1970s, in geometric shapes and dark and light tones, shown alongside a triptych of paintings from 2017, (Untitled), which are on view for the first time. Drawing a sense of optical elusiveness and magnitude even into the flat, vertical surface of the canvas, Heizer’s work once again emphasizes the concept of suspended space and time, realized through simple masses and materials.
It’s an intriguing concept, then, to consider Heizer’s work in conversation across the eras, his investigation of natural elements and the human measurements of form and time that ultimately bound their existence. In this manner, reflecting the passage of time or seeking to halt it permanently in stark juxtapositions of force, Heizer’s work looks out not only on the passage of the world around each piece, but equally on the ever-changing elements of his own view of the world passing around him.
The show closes February 2nd.
— D. Creahan
Michael Hezier [Exhibition Site]