Over the course of three days in 1971, Michael Heizer used two Caterpillar tractors to pull a thirty-ton granite block back and forth across the front lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The stone tore into the well-maintained grass, submerging the monolithic object into a pit while also amassing an immense pile of dirt-and a good deal of scorn among the museum's board of trustees. They ordered that the sculpture, which was commissioned to accompany a solo exhibition of the artist's work, be dismantled, and the lawn, quickly returned to its pristine state. The granite was eventually blown to pieces.


    Fourteen years later, in 1985, Heizer mounted an exhibition at New York's Whitney Museum with an installation inspired by this early exemplar of Land Art. Dragged Mass, a collaboration with Durham Press in 2018, is the most recent iteration of this storied, career-spanning work. Measuring 39 3/8 x 49 3/8 inches, this etching with aquatint and drypoint is printed on Somerset 500gsm paper as an edition of thirty-five. The sizeable print draws its imagery from Heizer's initial sketch for the 1971 sculpture as well as a photograph of the block of granite which was painstakingly transported from a quarry in Vermont to Detroit. Both his 1985 show and 2018 print act not only as a homage to his original sculpture, but also as an expansion – diving deeper into monumental action and visceral mark making.


    Like much of the artist's work, including this print's predecessors, Dragged Mass was shaped by a tremendous amount of effort and force. At his ranch in Nevada, Heizer, alongside Jean-Paul Russell, Curt Weihz, and Neil Curry, employed unconventional techniques as a form of mark making, using many of the same tools used to create his sculptures, such as the initial 1971 inspiration for this print. The plate was sandblasted, scraped with gravel, hit with a belt grinder, and scratched with an etching needle mounted to a CAT 960 loader - acts of assertive and unreserved mark making. Mounting an etching needle on a loader – essentially drypoint on an industrial scale – echoes the movement of earth undertaken in Detroit over forty years ago. Drypoint, akin digging a hole, is an act of displacement. There is the gouge in the copper but also the raised burr; the pit in the ground but also the pile of dirt. On top of these unorthodox methods, Dragged Mass includes more traditional printmaking techniques to add imagery that more closely recall Heizer's initial sketch including photoetchings made directly from the drawing.


    A continued rumination on the vast subjects of movement, excavation, and accumulation that have occupied Heizer for decades, Dragged Mass documents and extends the resonance of a short-lived, pioneering work, which was, like so many other monumental endeavors, leveled by people and time.


    Dragged Mass, as well as other works Heizer has completed with Durham Press, are available directly through Durham Press. For more information, please contact us at sales@durhampress.com.