Thoughts on a rock star
February 29, 2012
During the next week, you’ll surely see lots of pictures of a huge red contraption hauling a shrink-wrapped boulder along the streets of four counties, inching its way at night toward the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
And I suspect some of you will be asking yourselves (and others), why all the fuss over a 340-ton chunk of granite from some Riverside quarry? This, you call art?
My answer to that, in a word, is yes. That said, I do understand some of the skepticism, which is why I thought I’d share with you what I find so inspiring—so artistic—about this monumental, privately-funded project.
The boulder is just one facet of a work called “Levitated Mass,” conceived by Michael Heizer, the reclusive Nevada artist who has dedicated himself for decades to massive undertakings using the offerings of the earth as his primary media. At LACMA, The Rock, as it has come to be called, will be positioned over a concrete trench that allows visitors to walk underneath, creating a sense that the boulder is levitating.
“Levitated Mass” and Heizer’s other big, outdoor projects are reminders to me of how small, physically, we are in the scheme of things. They almost demand humility and introspection. Indeed, the whole oversized effort—the transport, the engineering required to install the rock at LACMA, all of it—is part of the art to me.
Some people, of course, will always view Heizer’s LACMA work as simply a big rock. But to others, including me, it will represent something far more emotional and soulful. And that’s as it should be given the subjective nature of art—or, in this case, the art of nature.
The other night, in the chill air of Riverside County shortly before The Rock finally hit the road, I was struck by how the ambition of one man’s vision could not be realized without the specialized collaboration of so many others—the quarry workers, the hard-hatted crew responsible for moving the rock, the beaming museum executives who pulled together the funding. Then there were the scores of spectators who knew they were witnessing something special, something transcendent.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience, to see something like this,” said one. “This has been here for like 20,000 years, and now it’s art.”
My thoughts exactly.
(Click here for a map of where you can see The Rock as it makes its journey to LACMA.)