Michael Heizer, Circular Surface, Planar Displacement Drawing, El Mirage Dry Lake (1969). Courtesy Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. Photo © Gianfranco Gorgoni.
They displaced thousands of pounds of earth, broke down mountains, rejected art galleries and dealers, and carefully constructed mythologies around their art and lives. The land artists of the late 1960s and early '70s have long been romanticized as cowboys who used their bare hands and raw physical force to create monumental art in extreme environments; they've been portrayed in popular culture as rule-breakers of the artistic status quo of their day.
In his new documentary, Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art, filmmaker and art historian James Crump digs beneath the surface to explore the personal lives, artworks, and historical treatment of three of these practitioners — Michael Heizer, Walter De Maria, and Robert Smithson — concentrating on their activity between 1968 and 1973. The chief curator of the Cincinnati Art Museum from 2010 to 2013, Crump conducted interviews with artists and incorporated original historical footage into his film. Hyperallergic spoke to him about the mythologization of the land artists, his efforts to capture the immense scale and scope of earthworks on film, and who the 'troublemakers' of contemporary art might be.