I posted something about Michael Heizer and his amazing, if monomaniacal project “City” a few weeks ago. There is something intriguing to me about the impulse in a certain brand of American, roughly ‘modernist’ artist to go out to the desert and make large scale ‘absolute’ works there. It points to a tension between city and country, the lure of raw, sublime nature, the aesthetics of purity and authenticity, and the populism that have been part of the American identity since the beginning.
James Turrell is another artist in this mold. His decades long still unfinished work Roden Crater is as interesting as “City,” though quite distinct. Turrell’s primary interest is light, and as a kind of minimalist he wants to grab the phenomenon of light at its roots. But the interesting thing is that in doing so, he has ended up trying to reconstruct a mountain toward that vision. One could write a book about that fact alone.