~’TROUBLEMAKERS: THE STORY of LAND ART’ – by JAMES CRUMP / feat. MICHAEL HEIZER
‘TROUBLEMAKERS: The Story of Land Art’ (2015) – A FILM BY JAMES CRUMP
REVIEWED BY NANCY SMITH – APRIL 5, 2016
ATTN: ALL ARTISTS, DESIGNERS, ART HISTORY BUFFS, ART STUDENTS, COLLECTORS, FILMMAKERS & FANS, you need to do everything within your power to see this film. it’s available commercially via popular digital venues, and will also be shown on AMERICAN MASTERS, on PBS in early 2017.
It played recently in NYC for like 3 weeks, and it did not get the buzz it needed to get the crowds out – and, I missed it, but luckily I was able to catch it after all, last week at a small screening at THE APARTMENT by The Line, in Soho, NYC
amazing. ground-breaking, literally.
game changer. rule breaker & setter of the record straight, this full-length documentary is vivid, and more alive than you might think, Land Art having been over for awhile now.
or, so you thought.
JAMES CRUMP, filmmaker, curator, and art historian (!!) wrote, produced and directed this gem of a documentary. Not only is the full length film engaging and factual, but it really revisits the era, both the exhibits, and the popular artist ‘watering holes’ in New York and Europe, at the time, but mostly focuses on the American Southwest, where these projects took shape . . and more importantly, instead of just repeating the mainstream ‘script’ it actually digs deeper, and totally sets the record straight.
based on the visual strength of the film, and with it’s new ‘eyeballs’ . . . unearthing layers of new, and/or over-looked characters and information. I’m betting on a big wave of renewed interest in the subject, for sure.
with this film, history is being re-written, and all . . for the better.
somehow, against all odds . . the real talent, always outs.
it was also, thank you to THE APARTMENT, a very special opportunity to get even more behind-the-scenes info from JAMES CRUMP personally, who was there at the small screening and did an enchanting Q&A.
about . . the making of film, its subjects, its priorities, and quite a few other random, but golden tidbits did scatter.
name one: re VIRGINIA DWAN, the chic & prescient gallerist/art dealer, who offers a living first person narration to the film, and who supported these guys back in the day . .
“she was a ‘3M’ heiress, and had all the money in the world to do it”.
3M, translate as . . scotch tape, bye the way.
so turns out a relatively unknown MICHAEL HEIZER is the true star of this film, and of Land Art. it took over 30 years for this truth to be brought to light, and this is solely because of James Crump & this film. and that, in a brief few words, is the summation of the utter game-changing, and deepest importance of this film.
besides making a no-brainer platform for Michael Heizer, which included taking new and extensive photographic documentation, which speaks for itself / Heizer himself is the archetypal American rebel/cowboy – a man of few words, the film also delves into why HEIZER missed out on the mainstream spotlight: he was considered ‘tempermental’, and more importantly he didn’t like or encourage the use of ‘photography’, to get his work ‘out there’. he also, unlike all the other so-called Land Artists, was the only one who actually lived out there, in the desert. he did not network in the bars, duh. yeah, turns out all the others were NYC-based, and only went out to their remote desert sites to ‘make’ their art, & then of course, return promptly with the photographs to prove, and promote it.
though this was ‘supposed’ to be in theory, (I guess) . . ‘art outside the gallery’.
but, from all the first person accounts of the time offered up in the film, it’s pretty clear that to those on the inside track, MICHAEL HEIZER was the ‘man’.
but hey, nobody was going to give up their Artforum cover . . to him.
what else is new ?
HEIZER was not only a hardcore, truly underground loner, but he was also a kick-ass, redneck bad-ass rebel, an all American cowboy. as American as they come. they say in the film, that he greeted the few visitors who made it out to visit him, with a pointed rifle.
But, VIRGINIA DWAN totally got him, and so does JAMES CRUMP.
if Land Art – is truly to be recognized as verifiable. indelible ‘landmark’ art history, it will be because James Crump made this film. Heizer’s projects, and life take on a trajectory very different from the rest of the more ‘established’ Land Art crew, whose primary focus seems to have been ‘academic/conceptual’, and whose main intent seemed to have been . . getting into the ‘books’, climbing the gallery ladders, and selling pre-packaged dirt, err I mean . . work.
which is probably why so many following generations of artists, who didn’t know about Heizer, found ‘Land Art’, played out. strong>dated, and in truth, lame. I know I did. it was supposed to be . . outside the system ? nobody took it seriously, except the usual . . mainstream jerks. it was packaged, patterned dirt, and sold through the same old same old. give me a break.
also, before you get too carried away by the thought of an ‘unschooled’ cowboy carving out the desert – in the name of art, NOT. the film circles back at some point, to tell us Heizer’s dad was a professional archaeologist who took his young son with him on his many digs, at important ancient / monument sites, I think Egypt. South America ? I was so transfixed by this time, cinematic information was just flying all around me, that I was living ‘inside’ the sensory spell of the film, so to speak, as opposed to minutely recording it. but the deep roots of Heizer’s drive to create land ‘monuments’ just doubled up . . with the film’s archival snippets of his early travels . . with his dad.
some folks in the audience were asking James Crump – where is land art now ? is there land art now ?
I think one of the reasons for the current ‘lack of’ . . might be that today you just can’t take a dump truck out into the desert, and do that.
I mean you have Burning Man, now. you have Joshua Tree. and you have VIHLS, lol.
you have the young SEAN VEGEZZI. both of whose art projects might better be classified as ‘urban’ desert – Land Art.
also our 21st century ethos . . would be to ‘conserve’, not carve up.
to photograph, film, manipulate digitally perhaps, but certainly not to carve into, our top goal . . is to not leave ‘footprints’. let alone dump truck – tracks.
which makes Heizer’s world, and his ‘monuments . . even more special, and visionary – in my eyes.
of course kicking up dust is an American rebel cowboy’s dream – and, guess what – they still do it.
just check out the work of JIM MANGAN, and his book: ‘BLAST’. in fact if ‘rural’ land art lives on, as opposed to ‘urban’ wasteland/infrastucture art – it would be in the hands of contemporary artists like . . PETER SUTHERLAND and JIM MANGAN, both with roots in the deserts of Utah and Colorado.
if she isn’t a household word, she sure gonna be an art world mega-legend, now. after this film.
glamorous, 70s chic, and as copper-penny brilliant – as the artists she bankrolled, exhibited and collected. she’s still alive, and offers up priceless personal knowledge, opinions, and insight – as the film rolls on.
and roll on it does. ‘TROUBLEMAKERS’ is one those rare films, that circle back and forth, eddying around different bits of subtext. it is not strictly chronological, but delivers up info like a small pool of weaving water. leaving you afterwards to wonder at the seamless creative editing, & fluid story-telling.
LAWRENCE WEINER . . also provides a lot of the ‘been there-done that’ oral history for the film.
wow, I never knew that . . that he had his roots in Land Art. of course his reputation, already renown, is going to shoot up, double-up now, too.
and, oh my . . who knew WILLOUGHBY SHARP, had once been so cute, so young, and at the very forefront of the Land Art movement – with his, what we would call today, a zine . . the independently published & forward pushing . . ‘AVALANCHE”. who knew, Willoughby Sharp was Land Art’s truest poet , and first voice.
you have to give profound credit to JAMES CRUMP, not only for putting MICHAEL HEIZER on the Land Art mainstream map, but ditto in his own ‘reverse – prescient’ . . tracking for Willoughby Sharp.
if only I had known this back in the 80s and 90s, when I would see him around the East Village all the time, and just thought he was a crusty worn-out, worn-down dude. in fact – he was a hero, who got beat by the game, hey Artforum is NOT going to give credit to the true movers and groovers, let alone say: hey, Willoughby saw it first !! wrote about it first.
tell me about it !! damn !! my life flashes before me, and it’s not such a pretty picture, the word bitterness – comes to mind. so does under-recognized, and broke.
plus, I would have been all over him, “can I take your picture ? can I visit your studio ? apartment, whatever” !!
how Willoughy’s hard-core, all too true story un-spools, and rings so true, if not for you, James Crump: it breaks my heart.
well, so you can’t move that desert earth by the truckloads anymore, but Willoughy, if you were still here, you could be whipping out your cellphone and showing that thinks-he-knows-it-all, twenty-something Brooklyn millennial . . a thing or too.
not to mention handing out a re-vamped ‘Avalanche’, which has just been re-leased, big time.
JAMES CRUMP, has not just written, directed and produced a wonderful documentary . . he has re-written . . history and re-told the ‘real’ grit, true grit story behind Land Art, and long may it live, now.
talent, always outs in the art world. eventually.
carve that into a desert rock, somebody.
see: JAMES CRUMP /wiki
definite, see: ‘TROUBLEMAKERS: The Story of Land Art’ – official website
DEFINITE, watch: the ‘TROUBLEMAKERS’ – trailer on YouTube
PHOTOS: NANCY SMITH
grabbed with my iPhone from the screening, except of course, for the photo of . . . JAMES CRUMP and STEPHANIE MURG, at the Q&A.
the screening was at: THE APARTMENT by The Line, Soho, NYC. MARCH 28, 2016.