Altars & Other Really Big Things From the Desert (Michael Heizer)


The works by Land Art artist Michael Heizer on view recently at Gagosian in New York are weird “religious” or “ritual” art. Their “origin” is like from some faraway place out in the desert. The twelve ton Asteroid (c. 2000) and the eighteen ton Potato Chip (2015) are caught midway between heaven and earth. It’s not the object itself as much as its ancient, alien presence that hangs suspended in the air. What’s altar-like about Altar 1Altar 2, and Altar 3 (2105), described by the gallery as “tiered steel platforms,” is the combination of the horizontal base and the diagonal lift. Aligned next to each other, the figures are best seen not in one instantaneous look, as seen here at the Gallery website, but as you walk close-up between them. That way, you get a better sense of the altar body-parts. I’m very pleased with these photos, in particular with the fall of natural light inside the Gallery. Michael Heizer is the master of positive and negative spacing. The work invites you to go out and eat before the alien god!

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About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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