Egyptians have their pyramids and now Angelenos have their rock. After more than 40 years, artist Michael Heizer’s lifelong dream is finally realized.
Hundreds of Los Angeles residents and visitors gathered at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) last Sunday morning for the unveiling of Heizer’s megalith outdoor sculpture, Levitated Mass, a 340-ton granite boulder that sits along a 456-foot long concrete slot. While the crowd waited patiently under the blazing sun for the dedication ceremony to begin, Heizer waited much longer to witness his vision come to life on the grounds of LACMA.
In 1969, Heizer originally conceived the idea for Levitated Mass and attempted to build the sculpture with a 120-ton rock near Reno, Nevada. This attempt failed when a crane broke because of the weight of the rock and the project was put on hold. Years later, in 2007, an even larger rock was found. Heizer was working in Jurupa Valley in Riverside County when a giant boulder came off the quarry wall during a detonation – he knew it would be perfect for his long-held dream, as long as he could figure out how to move it. Fortunately, he found plenty of support through LACMA and its generous donors.
All kinds of logistical planning and permits were needed to transport the massive rock over 100 miles from the quarry to LACMA. After five years, the rock began to roll. It traveled through 22 cities over the course of 11 nights, in February 2012. Enthusiasm and excitement prevailed along the transportation route, with neighborhoods throwing impromptu parties in honor of the giant rock’s journey.
Although funds were raised through private donations, some people criticized the $10 million price tag for L.A.’s newest rock star. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky addressed the crowd and defended the city’s support of Levitated Mass, comparing it to iconic monuments in the city, such as the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. “The proof is out here today,” said Yaroslavsky, as he gestured to the massive crowd gathered around the megalith sculpture, anxious to get an even closer look. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone will see something different, from a different angle, “ he reminded the crowd. After all, that’s what art is all about: people sharing and discussing their viewpoints about creations that stir the human spirit. Whether or not it was worth the giant price tag, is up to the individual minds of those beholders to ponder.
At last the red ribbon was cut and visitors descended 15 feet down the concrete ramp until they were directly under the 340-ton boulder. The shade it provided was welcoming, though there wasn’t much time to linger as the masses kept coming. The rock is one of the largest megalithic stones to be moved since ancient times. Combined with the modern design of the ramp and cutting-edge engineering, Heizer has balanced the use of negative space and volume to create something we’ve never seen before. This is one outdoor sculpture that rocks.
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.
Photos by Liz and Kiana Liang.