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DOUBLE NEGATIVE: HIGH ART IN THE DESERT


Hidden away in the desert a few miles east of the Moapa Valley is a curious and thought-provoking work of art. Double Negative, by artist Michael Heizer, was among the first “earthworks” created as part of a movement known as “land art”. Earthworks are contemporary artworks that use as their canvas or medium the earth itself. The piece was completed in 1970 and belongs to The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Double Negative, though a notable piece of art, is essentially no more than two ends of a trench spanning empty space. The trenches line up across a large gap formed by the natural shape of the eastern edge of the Mormon Mesa. Including this open area across the gap, the trenches together measure 1,500 feet long, 50 feet deep, and 30 feet wide. About 240,000 tons of rock was displaced in the construction of the trenches.

The site of the artwork at the edge of the Mormon Mesa commands a colorful, sweeping vista of the Virgin River and the mountain ranges beyond.

Double Negative is located in a rather remote area of the desert, but it can be visited relatively easily. The journey requires travel on unpaved, rocky roads, so a four-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance is highly recommended.

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  • Posted by Bethany Drysdale on February 10th, 2011