By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Land artists today, like Fritz Haeg with his urban agriculture, Alexandra Mir with her fleeting earthworks or Perray with his dump truck, are deferring to nature rather than dislodging it, says environmentalist Char Miller, who wrote about Levitated Mass for KCET's website.
He was as fascinated by the spectacular transport of the rock as everyone else. "In Los Angeles, where mobility is so important, the idea of movement, and closing down streets, may have been more impressive than the art installation itself, which is static," he says. Still, he adds, "That was not the artwork," though maybe he wishes it was. "It was a feat of technology."
LACMA director Michael Govan admits that the engineering, bureaucratic maneuvering and arduous route that got the rock to LACMA are "fascinating, riveting," but says they will become less and less a focus as time goes on. "It's not part of the meaning of the piece," he says. "I'm banking on this being of lasting importance." He imagines people coming to see it hundreds of years from now.
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"I wouldn't expect an artist born in 1990 to make something like this," Govan acknowledges. But that doesn't make Heizer's project — which cost $10 million in donations — irrelevant. Govan sees Heizer as furthering our "appreciation of nature," giving people a focused way to experience nature's daunting vastness in a way other artists don't.
Heizer is on his way to LACMA, where he will oversee the placement of his rock. Emmert International, the company that built the transporter, is finishing a 700-ton gantry, a steel structure to lift and lower the boulder. Then all equipment will pull out, and the artwork will stand alone.
So what will the piece mean in the end? It's still a matter of speculation. Artist Richard Walker, who, in his gentle 2010 video Hierarchy of Relevance, plays a cymbal in the shadow of a desert boulder, wonders if the piece attempts the impossible by bringing the landscape to the museum.
"We all know that if we get in a car and drive 200 miles, we'll see structures that far exceed 'the rock' in terms of impressiveness," he says. "It seems so futile — and this is its value, I think. It's inextricably linked to the human endeavor. It's like a sigh or something."
When I visited the slot, months before the rock arrived at LACMA, it felt like Levitated Mass would contradict its surroundings: Next to the busy newness of LACMA's Resnick and Broad buildings and Miracle Mile's functional structures, the sculpture's main ambition will be to keep existing regardless of what happens next, a goal that's relatable and beautiful.