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William L. Fox: Michael Heizer


Summary Note

The archive William L. Fox: Michael Heizer consist of materials related to Fox’s work with Heizer on the writing of the essay for the brochure for the public sculpture outside of the Reno Federal Courthouse, and for his book The Void, the Grid, & the Sign. Materials also include organizational papers for the Triple Aught Foundation, correspondence, and photographs of City.

Biographical Note

William L. Fox, Director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada, has variously been called an art critic, science writer, and cultural geographer. He has published fifteen books on cognition and landscape, numerous essays in art monographs, magazines and journals, and fifteen collections of poetry. Among his nonfiction titles are Michael Heizer: The Once and Future Monuments; Aereality: On the World from Above; Terra Antarctic: Looking Into the Emptiest Continent; In the Desert of Desire: Las Vegas and the Culture of Spectacle; and The Void, the Grid and the Sign: Traversing the Great Basin. Fox is also an artist who has exhibited in numerous group and solo shows in eight countries since 1974.

Fox has researched and written books set in the extreme environments of the Antarctic, the Arctic, Chile, Nepal, and other locations. He is a fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and Explorers Club and he is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Science Foundation. He has been a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Clark Art Institute, the Australian National University, the National Museum of Australia, and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

Scope and Content

Michael Heizer is an internationally renowned artist most known for his role as a founder of the Land Art movement, albeit that is a term he does not fully accept. Heizer grew up in California and as a teenager accompanied his father, the famous anthropologist Robert Heizer, to archaeological sites in Mexico and South America where he was introduced to the early Mesoamerican cultures’ use of large stones in the construction of temples and monuments. When later he accompanied his father to Egypt to continue Robert’s analysis of ancient methods of moving large stones, Michael had already invented a sculptural vocabulary using negative space and large stones for his own artistic practice. The young artist chose the Mojave and Great Basin deserts as sites for his work because he had traveled extensively over them, the land was either free or cheap, and he could live without oversight.

The archive William L. Fox: Michael Heizer consist of materials related to Fox’s work with Heizer on the writing of the essay in the brochure for the public sculpture outside of the Reno Federal Courthouse (“Perforated Object”), and for his books The Void, the Grid, & the Sign, Mapping the Empty: Eight Artists and Nevada, Playa Works, and Michael Heizer: The Once and Future Monuments, all of which deal with Heizer’s sculptural practice. Materials also include daily notes taken during his multiple visits to Heizer’s property in Garden Valley, organizational papers for the Triple Aught Foundation, correspondence, and photographs of City. The materials contain observations not mentioned in publications.


This archive is arranged into four series chronologically by subject, with the exception of series 4.
  • Series 1: Perforated Object
  • Series 2: The Void
  • Series 3: Triple Aught Foundation
  • Series 4: Correspondence

Inclusive Dates


Bulk Dates


Quantity / Extent

.5 cubic feet



Related Archive Collections

  • CAE0901: The Deiro Collection
  • CAE0909: The Arcy Douglass Land Arts Investigations and Writings Collection
  • CAE1609: Ars contemporaneus alpinus
  • CAE1714: Owen Gump: Desert Works
  • CAE1804: Gianfranco Gorgoni: Land Arts Photographs

Related Publications

Beacham, Jon, and Michael Heizer. Coyotes, Silver Slippers, Pumas, Mesquite ... and Word List Extracted & Edited: Selective List of Uses for Welding Electrodes: Michael Heizer. Tivoli, NY: The Brother In Elysium, 2015.

Camfield, William A. Michael Heizer: 45°, 90°, 180°: A Sculpture for Rice University. Houston, TX: Rice University, Farish Gallery, School of Architecture, 1985.

Celant, Germano. Michael Heizer. Milan, Italy: Fondazione Prada, 1997.

Durham Press. Michael Heizer, Tom Slaughter, Ray Charles White, Scott Kilgour, John Giorno, Robert Harms, Daniel Villeneuve, Beatriz Milhazes. Durham, Pa: Durham Press, 1996.

Felix, Zdenek. Michael Heizer. Essen, Germany, Otterlo, Netherlands: Museum Folkwang; Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, 1979.

Fox, William L., Mapping the Empty: Eight Artists and Nevada. Reno, Nev: University of Nevada Press, 1999.

Fox, William L., Michael Heizer: The Once and Future Monuments. New York, NY: Monacelli Press, 2019.

Fox, William L., Playa Works: The Myth of the Empty. Reno, Nev: University of Nevada Press, 2002.

Fox, William L., The Void, The Grid, & The Sign: Traversing the Great Basin. Salt Lake City, Utah: The University of Utah Press, 2000.

Gorgoni, Gianfranco. The New Avant-Garde: Issues for the Art of the Seventies. New York, NY: Praeger, 1972.

Hedger, Michael Albert. Larger than Life: Size, Scale and the Imaginary in the Work of Land Artists Michael Heizer, Walter De Maria and Dennis Oppenheim. Sidney, N.S.W.: University of New South Wales. Art & Design, 2014.

Heizer, Michael. Michael Heizer. Innsbruck, Austria: Galerie im Taxispalais, 1977.

Heizer, Michael. Michael Heizer. London, England: Waddington Galleries, 1990.

Heizer, Michael. Michael Heizer: Actual Size. Detroit, MI: Detroit Institute of the Arts, 1971.

Heizer, Michael. Michael Heizer: Double Negative. New York, NY, Los Angeles, CA: Rizzoli; Museum of Contemporary Art, 1991.

Heizer, Michael. Michael Heizer: New Sculpture. New York, NY: M. Knoedler & Co., 1988.

Heizer, Michael. Michael Heizer: New Sculpture. Tokyo, Japan: Akira Ikeda Gallery, 1988.

Heizer, Michael. Michael Heizer: Sculpture in Reverse. Los Angeles CA: Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984.

Heizer, Michael. Michael Heizer—Dragged Mass Geometric. New York, NY: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1985.

Kimmelman, Michael. The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa. New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2005.

Levitated Mass: The Story of Michael Heizer’s Monolithic Sculpture. Directed by Doug Pray. New York, NY: First Run Features, 2014.

Lewis, David P. The Size of City: Michael Heizer’s Masterpiece as Architecture. Cardiff, Wales: Dissertation, Cardiff University, 2010.

McGill, Douglas C. Michael Heizer: Effigy Tumuli: The Reemergence of Ancient Mound Building. New York, NY: H.N. Abrams, 1990.

Vander Weg, Kara. Ed., Michael Heizer: Alters. New York, NY: Gagosian Gallery, 2016.

Container Listing by Series:

CAE1111/1 Series 1: Perforated Object, 1956-1996

Series 1 contains materials related to the Michael Heizer sculpture Perforated Object located at the Federal Court House in Reno, Nevada. William L. (Bill) Fox was a panelist for the General Services Administration (GSA) when it ran a competition for a public sculpture outside the Reno Federal Courthouse on Virginia Street, and was subsequently hired by GSA to write the brochure.
  • CAE Box 15

    • 1-1 Art-in-Architecture Minutes, 1992-1993
    • 1-2 Correspondence, 1993-1996
    • 1-3 Sculpture Research & Essay, 1956-1996
    • 1-4 Press, 1996

CAE1111/2 Series 2: The Void, the Grid, and the Sign Research, 1969-1999

Series 2 contains Fox’s notes taken during his travels to Garden Valley where he interviewed Michael Heizer at length for the writing of The Void, the Grid, & the Sign. This series also includes a manuscript copy of the first third of the book, "The Void," which is about Heizer's City sculpture. It was annotated extensively by Heizer for discussion with Fox before the final manuscript was submitted to the publisher and includes material that was not published. (Note that other manuscript materials for The Void, the Grid, & the Sign are in the Fox archive materials at Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno).
  • CAE Box 15

    • 2-1 Research Notes, 1997-1999
    • 2-2 Research Materials, 1969-1997
    • 2-3 Research Photographs, 1997-1999
    • 2-4 Draft Manuscript and Caption Information, 1997-1998

Additional Materials

  • CAE Flat File F17 Oversized Items

    • 2-2#3 U.S.G.S. Topographic Map of Water Gap West, Nevada, Provisional Edition 1985

CAE1111/3 Series 3: Triple Aught Foundation, 1988-2000

Series 3 concerns fundraising efforts in 1988 for Heizer’s City sculpture through Dia Art Foundation while Fox was Executive Director of the Nevada Arts Council, and Fox’s board service on Heizer's Triple Aught Foundation. Other board members included Michael Govan, Virginia Dwan, and Heizer’s two assistants, Jennifer Mackiewicz and Mary Shanahan (the latter who became his wife).
  • CAE Box 15

    • 3-1 Fundraising for City, 1988
    • 3-2 Triple Aught Foundation Board Materials, 1998-2000

CAE1111/4 Series 4: Correspondence, 1993-2000

Series 4 consists of Michael Heizer related correspondence.
  • CAE Box 15

    • 4-1 Michael Heizer Related Correspondence, 1993-2000