In Michael Heizer’s “Complex One”, the most important quality is the fact that the piece contains many standard elements, such as contrasting shapes and framing techniques. The piece, located in a remote location of Nevada, is a combination of simple shapes, rectangular structures around a curved, sunken gravel-coated pit, to create a complex form that is one of the biggest modern sculptures ever built. At the center of the huge sculpture, there is an extensive, trapezoidal mound that is approximately 140 feet long and 24 feet high. Although the piece is impressive because of its size, size and shape are not the only qualities inherently important to the piece. The piece is also made up of abstract framing elements, some attached to the mound itself, while others are set a good distance from the trapezoidal mound. The framing elements are surprising unique because they create a continuous frame when viewed from the front of the piece, but they break up into random, abstract objects when one moves to either side. From any vantage point, “Complex One” creates a unique view of a less than natural piece of environmental art. Even though the piece is not completely natural, like a typical Andy Goldsworthy piece, “Complex One” still qualifies as environmental art because of the deeply symbolic and historical elements Heizer included in the piece. Heizer wanted his piece to be new, radical and American, but that was not enough. He also wanted his piece to be meaningful, and that is why “Complex One” is very reminiscent to the mastabas of Egypt, which Heizer saw as a child while traveling with his archaeologist father. Heizer once expressed how important it was for his work to contain symbol from the past when he stated, “I’m not a radical. In fact, I’m going backward. I like to attach myself to the past”. The intent of “Complex One” is to connect the art of the past with the art of the present, rather than connecting with nature. Heizer insists that the purpose of “Complex One” is to create art, not simply to make a statement about the landscape. For Heizer, the main goal is to create art by connecting the past with the present rather than making an environmental statement, but he never completely detaches himself from the environment. Despite Heizer’s mixed goals, the environment is still a crucial element in his work. For example, “Complex One” was built in the desert, which Heizer describes as “that kind of unraped, peaceful, religious space artists have always tried to put in their work”. “Complex One”, although quite large, only reflects how small it is compared to the expansive desert environment. Along with the size of the desert, weather also manipulates the piece. To help explain how vulnerable Heizer’s work is compared to the untamable environment, Michael Killelman ( a writer for the New York Times) writes, “Storms would sweep across the valley and, in minutes, wipe out $30,000 of labor”, and this happened three or four times. However, the relationship between the environment and “Complex One” is more than merely destructive. The piece also helps to express the beauty of the surrounding environment by reflecting the sun in various shapes, which was Heizer’s intention. The intentions of Heizer are not as radical as they may seem by taking one glance at “Complex One”, and the piece actually helps to reflect the harmony and beauty of the surrounding desert.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.