"I think earth is the material with the most potential
because it is the original source material."
Michael Madden Heizer was born on November 4, 1944 in Berkeley, California to Robert Fleming Heizer and Nancy Elizabeth Jenkins. Robert Heizer, who grew up in Lovelock, Nevada, was one of the most prominent anthropologists of his time, teaching for almost thirty years at the University of California, Berkeley and authoring numerous influential books, particularly about Native American culture in the West.
Heizer was exposed to numerous influences during his youth that would later shape his art: not only his father's anthropological field work, which took him to rural California, Nevada, Peru, and Bolivia, but also the work of his maternal grandfather, Olaf P. Jenkins, who was a geologist. Heizer briefly attended the San Francisco Art Institute from 1963–64 but moved to New York in 1966, where he was in contact with a number of prominent artists of the day, including Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Walter De Maria, Tony Smith, and Frank Stella. Heizer's early works included a number of more conventional abstract paintings and sculptures, but he evidently soon found New York constraining.
With colleague Walter de Maria, Heizer went west in 1967, and created a new genre of "land art" or "earth art," which used the earth as its medium. Far from the cramped studios of New York, and outside the confines of the museum's white walls, his works reached unprecedented size, culminating in what is perhaps his most famous work, Double Negative. He collaborated with many of the early earth artists, even appearing in Robert Smithson's film about Spiral Jetty, perhaps the best-known example of earth art.
In 1972, Heizer began construction on a massive installation known as City in the rural desert of Lincoln County, Nevada. Since then, Heizer has grown increasingly shy of media attention, and has become known as something of a recluse. Nevertheless, he has continued to produce smaller-scale sculptures and paintings, which have been featured in numerous solo exhibitions (most prominently at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York). His works now appear in museums and public spaces worldwide.
In 1995, Heizer was diagnosed with a neurological disorder known as polyneuropathy, which reduced his ability to use his hands. Despite this, Heizer currently resides with his second wife, Mary Shanahan, near the City site, and continues his work on the project to this day.
In addition to the list of Heizer's exhibitions below, this site also contains a list of Heizer's major works, and an extensive bibliography.
Below is an attempt to create a complete list of Heizer's solo exhibitions. It is believed to be current. A selection of group exhibitions in which Heizer's work has been featured is also present; these are denoted with an asterisk.
- *The Annual Invitational Exhibition, Park Place Gallery, New York, NY
- *5-30 Oct: Earthworks, Virginia Dwan Gallery, New York, NY
- *Sculpture Annual, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
- 15 Apr-3 May: Michael Heizer, Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich, Germany
- 10 Jan-3 Feb: Michael Heizer: New York-Nevada, Virginia Dwan Gallery, New York, NY
- *24 Jun-25 Oct: XXXV Exposizione Internazionale d'arte di Venezia, Venice, Italy
- 25 Mar-25 Apr: Michael Heizer: Photographic and Actual Work, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
- *Sixth Guggenheim International Exhibition, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
- 5 Feb-16 Mar: Michael Heizer Windows, Ace Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- Michael Heizer: Recent Paintings, Fourcade, Droll, Inc., New York, NY
- 11 May-12 Jun: Michael Heizer: New Works: Paintings and Sculpture, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, NY
- *15 Feb-3 Apr: 1977 Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
- 23 Apr-25 Jun: Michael Heizer: Etched Glass Windows, Ace Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- 23 Apr-25 Jun: Michael Heizer: Sculpture, Flow Ace Gallery, Venice, CA
- 16 Dec-28 Jan 1978: Michael Heizer: Bilder von 1967-1977, Galerie am Promenadeplatz, Munich and Frankfurt, Germany
- Heizer: Seven Sculptures in Granite, Steel, and Wood, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, NY
- Michael Heizer, Galerie im Taxispalais, Munich, Germany
- Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich, Germany (?)
- Kulturhaus der Stadt Graz, Graz, Austria (?)
- Galerie der Speigel, Cologne, Germany (?)
- Feb: Gemini G.E.L. Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- 15 Jun - 29 Jul and 18 Aug - 7 Oct: - Michael Heizer, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany and Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands
- Michael Heizer: New Works, Paintings, Drypoints, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, NY
- Michael Heizer," Richard Hines Gallery, Seattle, WA
- 15 Apr-31 May: Negative Sculpture, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, NY
- 24 Apr-1 Jun: Michael Heizer, The St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO
- 1-31 Dec: Michael Heizer: Sculpture, Janie C. Lee Gallery, Houston, TX
- 5-30 Apr: Michael Heizer: Elevated, Sruface, Depressed, Flow Ace Gallery, Venice, CA
- 8 May-19 Jun: Michael Heizer: New Sculpture, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, NY
- Michael Heizer: Paintings, Ace Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
- 18 Jan-26 Feb: Michael Heizer: Paintings 1967, Oil & Steel Gallery, New York, NY
- 10 Sep-8 Oct: Michael Heizer: Monotypes and Drawings, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, MA
- 15 Oct-26 Nov: Michael Heizer: New Sculpture and Drawings, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York NY
- 18 Oct-19 Nov: Michael Heizer: 45°, 90°, 180° Monotypes, Patricia Heesy Gallery, New York, NY
- 23 Jan-Feb: Michael Heizer: Drawings, Janie C. Lee Gallery, Houston, TX
- Mar-Apr: Michael Heizer: Geometric Extraction, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
- Michael Heizer, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, NY
- 24 Jan-7 Feb: 45°, 90°, 180°: A Sculpture for Rice University, Libbie Rice Farish Gallery of the School of Architecture, Rice University, Houston, TX
- 22 Jun-14 Sep: Michael Heizer: Major Works, Painting, Sculpture, Drawings, Photographs, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, NY
- 27 Jun-1 Sep: Michael Heizer: Dragged Mass Geometric, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
- 2-21 Apr: Michael Heizer: New Sculpture, Knoedler & Company Gallery, New York, NY
- 5-24 Sep: Michael Heizer: New Sculpture, Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- 31 Dec-27 Jan 1989: Michael Heizer, Ochi Gallery, Ketchum, ID
- 3-24 Mar - Michael Heizer, Ochi Gallery, Boise, ID
- 7-31 Mar - Michael Heizer: New Drawings, Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
- 31 Jan-24 Feb: Michael Heizer, Waddington Galleries, London, England
- 3-24 Mar: Michael Heizer: Object Sculptures, Knoedler & Company Gallery, New York, NY
- 15 Sep-13 Oct: Michael Heizer, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, MI
- 15-19 Feb: Michael Heizer: Perforated Object No. 2, ADAA Art Show: Seventh Regiment Armory, Booth No. 7, New York, NY
- 1 Jul-15 Aug: Art Before Life: Michael Heizer, Ace Gallery, New York, NY
- 1 Feb-9 Mar: Michael Heizer: Works 1972-1976, Galerie Frank + Schulte, Berlin, Germany
- 15 Dec-31 Jan 1997: Michael Heizer: Negative – Positive +, Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy
- 12 Feb-7 Mar: Michael Heizer: Hard Edge Ejecta, Knoedler & Company, New York, NY
- 28 June-23 Sep: Michael Heizer, PaceWildenstein, New York, NY
- Julia Brown, Ed., Michael Heizer: Sculpture in Reverse. (Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984), ISBN 0-914-35704-2
- Germano Celant, Michael Heizer (Milan: Fondazione Prada, 1991), Paperback, ISBN 8-887-02902-4 (amazon.com), Hardcover, ISBN 8-887-02901-6
- Zdenek Felix, Michael Heizer, and Ellen Joosten, Michael Heizer (Essen: Museum Folkwang, in association with the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, 1979)
- Michael Heizer and Mark C. Taylor, Michael Heizer: Double Negative - Sculpture in the Land (New York: Rizzoli, in association with The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Nevada Institute for Contemporary Art at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 1991), Hardcover, ISBN 0-847-81426-2
- Michael Kimmelman, "Art's Last, Lonely Cowboy," The New York Times Magazine (6 Feb 2005, Pages 33-41, 59, 72, 78)
- Michael Kimmelman, "Michael Heizer: A Sculptor's Colossus of the Desert," The New York Times (12 Dec 1999, Page B1)
- Douglas C. McGill, Michael Heizer: Effigy Tumuli (New York: Abrams, 1990), Paperback, ISBN 0-810-92374-2, Hardcover, ISBN 0-810-91166-3
- David Whitney, Michael Heizer: Dragged Mass Geometric (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1985)
On the web:
Also visit the master list of links on our website.