Double Negative is a piece of land art located in the Moapa Valley on Mormon Mesa (or Virgin River Mesa) near Overton, Nevada. Double Negative was completed in 1970 by the artist Michael Heizer.
When experiencing Double Negative there are no directional signs to the site or curatorial descriptions set in Letraset on the wall, you define the work and create your own experience as an active participant. What you get out of the work is whatever you put into your experience.
Visiting the site becomes exhilarating as you witness the transformation of the artwork, allowing you to connect with the land art in your own unique way.
About the artwork
The artist actively excavates a long trench in the earth, creating a 30-foot (9 m) wide, 50-foot (15 m) deep, and 1500-foot (457 m) long channel. This excavation involves displacing a staggering 244,000 tons of rock, predominantly composed of rhyolite and sandstone. The artist then deposits the excavated material into a natural canyon, flanking both sides of it with the trenches. The artwork is aptly titled “Negative” as it signifies the presence of both natural and human-made voids resulting from this process. Essentially, the piece revolves around what is absent or displaced.
Exploring the Magnificence of Michael Heizer’s Double Negative
In the realm of contemporary art, few works possess the grandeur and sheer audacity of Michael Heizer’s masterpiece, Double Negative. This awe-inspiring land art installation has captivated the imaginations of art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Located in the vast desert landscape of Nevada, Double Negative is an awe-inspiring sculpture created by cutting two monumental trenches into the earth. Each trench is 50 feet deep, 30 feet wide, and spans over a quarter of a mile. These earthworks, positioned at opposing angles, form a remarkable channel that stretches across the desert floor.
Heizer’s vision for Double Negative was to challenge the traditional notion of sculpture and engage with the natural environment in an unprecedented way. By manipulating the landscape on such a monumental scale, he aimed to transform the viewer’s perception of space and time.
Construction of double negative
Constructed between 1969 and 1970, this monumental artwork offers an immersive and introspective experience for those who venture into the desert to witness it. As visitors approach Double Negative, a sense of awe and tranquility embraces them, as if they are stepping into a sacred sanctuary. The sheer magnitude of the cut earth, coupled with the stark contrast against the barren desert backdrop, creates an otherworldly atmosphere that leaves a lasting impression.
Double Negative is not only an artistic marvel but also a testament to humanity’s interaction with the natural world. It serves as a reminder of our ability to shape and mold our environment, while also raising questions about our impact on the Earth.
experiencing double negative in person
Experience and perception are integral to the Double Negative experience. As the sun dances across the sky, casting ever-changing shadows within the trenches, visitors are encouraged to reflect on their relationship with nature and the passage of time. This interactive engagement with the environment adds a dynamic dimension to the artwork, making it a truly unique and immersive experience.
Michael Heizer’s Double Negative stands as a testament to the boundless possibilities of art and its ability to connect with nature on a profound level. It challenges us to question our preconceived notions of sculpture and invites us to explore the harmonious convergence of art and earth. For those fortunate enough to witness this monumental artwork in person, Double Negative offers an indelible encounter with the sublime.
earthwork and landart masterpiece in the Nevada desert
So, if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Nevada, don’t miss the opportunity to embark on a transformative journey through the desert and witness the sheer magnificence of Michael Heizer’s Double Negative.
Double Negative Virtual Reality
Planning a visit to Double Negative Here’s what you need to know
It really is in the middle of nowhere. Prepare for conditions of extreme heat with no shade (especially in the summer months) – always bring water, some snacks, a hat, and sunscreen. It does get very windy with gusts blowing tumbleweeds and small pebbles that pelt you from seemingly every direction.
Use caution, avoid traveling alone, and notify an outside party of your departure and estimated arrival time for safety.
Double Negative is located about 80 miles from Las Vegas. It’s situated on the Mormon Mesa in Overton, Nevada.
Admission to the Double Negative site is always free and there is open access all day and night year-round.
So where the heck is it exactly?
The nearest major landmark that is relatively close to Double Negative is Overton Airport:
1110 Airport Road
Overton, NV 89040
Directions to Michael Heizer’s Double Negative
From Los Angeles & Las Vegas:
If starting your adventure from Los Angeles, allow at least seven hours to travel. Keep in mind that the last 45 minutes are totally on unmarked dirt roads and some seasonal roads. A four-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance and sturdy tires is recommended.
Double Negative is located in a very remote area of the Nevada desert, but it can be visited relatively easily from Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The journey requires travel on unpaved, rocky roads, so a vehicle with high clearance and four-wheel drive is recommended.
Head towards Overton, Nevada
Take Interstate 15 North past Las Vegas to Route 169 (exit #93) to Overton. Overton is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas. From Las Vegas take I-15 N for 52 miles to Overton.
Once in Overton
Once on Overton, turn left onto Cooper Street, which leads to Overton Airport. This will be a sharp left shortly after the Maverick Gas Station, Moapa Valley Community Center and Las Vegas Met. Police Station (on left) and the Post Office (on right).
Head towards Overton Municipal Airport
Continue on Cooper Street to Airport Road.
Head towards the mesa
Turn right on Airport Road.
Drive to the top of the mesa
Proceed up the road to the top of the Western edge of the mesa. As you pass the dump, it will turn into a dirt road.
Once at the top of the mesa
When you reach the top of the mesa, note mileage and continue straight across the mesa (do not go onto the immediate right or left road).
Travel approximately 2.6 miles
After traveling 2.6 miles, keep your eyes to the left and make your first possible left (at 2.8 miles) onto a small dirt road, which is easy to miss. Note mileage again.
Double Negative is located at the third notch
The road runs to the north, parallel to the eastern edge of the mesa where Double Negative is located (overlooking the Virgin River). Proceed carefully. Pass the first two notches in the mesa and a small U.S. Dept. of the Interior/Bureau of Land Management marker at right. Double Negative is located in the third notch.
Congratulations! You made it to Double Negative
After traveling 1.3 miles, you will come to a fork, which leads to each cut of Double Negative. Bear right to the south cut. The left fork leads to the North cut.
Here’s a map to Double Negative: note: 36.6173193,-114.3534498
Allow at least a half-hour before sunset to start leaving Double Negative as retracing one’s steps is very confusing. Go out to the main dirt road, turn right and go back down the mesa.