New York

Michael Heizer


Michael Heizer doesn’t face this problem. He tractors along with a simple vocabulary of form derived from structural painting of the ’60s, particularly Held’s and Mangold’s. His paintings demonstrate the commutability of this formal rhetoric. I like some of them, and it was brash of Heizer to show them. He has risked trivializing his oeuvre through the implication that he merely traveled these pictorial forms west as die stamps for his Earthworks. The canvases, thinly painted with a round figure rendered in the hues of stone, are muscular, almost Romanesque despite the flimsiness of pictures on stretchers little more than an inch thick. These tough roundels set up other works in the exhibition to seem like the results of working to notch, peel and/or dislocate areas of given shape, rather as one would crack a geode or open an egg. But, since Heizer shaped (i.e., made) his canvases and didn’t carve them, it’s more to the point to say that the shaping thwarts an evident internal logic of completion. In the tondo Untitled #3, the unpainted inner field rolls up beyond where it is bounded by the perimeter figure. This wedge-that-would-be-round extended so as to disrupt one armature of the angle of incision is a didactic lesson in the preemptive privilege of whole shapes. The bands in Untitled #7 look like brake shoes at rest, which is to say that the figure is not an incomplete oval so much as two arcs of a circle that is far larger than the painting itself. This is the most generously inflected painting in the show, since its logic implies a shape that transcends it.

Alan Moore