Finally, “The Rock” meets the road
February 29, 2012
With a round of applause and two mighty blasts of a truck horn, The Rock finally hit the road at 10:37 p.m. on Tuesday in what may be the most talked about slow-speed odyssey since O.J. Simpson’s Bronco snaked through the Southland’s streets.
The 340-ton boulder that is the centerpiece of “Levitated Mass,” Michael Heizer’s new LACMA installation took seven minutes just to make it out of the Stone Valley Materials Inc. quarry in Riverside County.
A crowd of several hundred cheered and shivered as the behemoth began its epic journey. Covered in white shrink-wrap to ward off taggers, it rode on a massive red transporter and looked, under the vehicle’s bright lights, like a well-lit iceberg.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience, to see something like this,” said Stan Ortman of Chino Hills, who spotted the boulder on his way home from work and stopped. “This has been here for like 20,000 years, and now it’s art.”
The Rock, as it affectionately came to be known, has been waiting for what seems like eons to head out to LACMA, where it will be positioned over a concrete trench in a manner that will make it look as if it is levitating.
That Thursday night’s festive send-off even happened is a bureaucratic miracle of sorts. Although millions of dollars in transportation costs are being underwritten by corporate donor Hanjin Shipping, the move required delicate and sometimes contentious negotiations with 22 cities and four counties. As early as Tuesday morning, some municipalities were still demanding various concessions from the museum in exchange for permits.
For the next nine days, The Rock will be cradled on its 299-foot-long, 27-foot-wide steel carriage as it travels on surface streets at speeds of less than 5 mph. Crews of workers will rush ahead to make sure utility and power lines are kept clear.
The Rock reached its first stop before dawn at a wide-open strip of private property at Mission Boulevard and Bellegrave Avenue in Glen Avon. It will spend all of Wednesday there before setting off in darkness on its next leg, which, if all goes according to plan, will get it as far as Mission Boulevard and Grove Avenue, near LA/Ontario International Airport.
(For a full LACMA “Gawker’s Guide” to The Rock’s trip, click here.)
On Tuesday night, several hundred people came by during the evening to bid The Rock bon voyage, including LACMA Director Michael Govan, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Jurupa Valley Mayor Laura Roughton, and Dan Johnston, who, as project manager for the quarry’s former owner, sold the boulder to Heizer.
Govan said that, when Heizer first set eyes on granite boulder, which had been dynamited from the side of the mountain, “he called me… and said it was the most beautiful rock he’d ever seen.”
Although Heizer, who is famously reclusive, was not in attendance Tuesday, Govan said he’d seen him earlier in the day at the artist’s home in Nevada. “He said there was nothing he could do to help move the rock,” Govan explained, “so he wouldn’t be here. But he’s excited. When we first started this, we weren’t sure it would actually happen. The engineering, the organization, all the permissions—there were a lot of doubters. But now it’s happening, and it’s going to be a real gift to the public. It’s going to be great.”
The crowd tended to agree.
Daniel Ponti, a Glen Avon photographer, said he had been “waitin’ months for that darn thing to move,” and checking its progress daily. Saul Gomez, 14, of Sunnyslope, said his father had alerted him to The Rock’s presence and sent him to look with his mom and his sister Samantha. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” the boy said. “It’s huge!”
Others were as amused as they were awestruck.
“Pretty big rock, huh?” observed Dave Sharp of nearby East Highland, a union employee whose wife, Leslie Hubbs, said she was the niece of the quarry’s former owner. “I think it’s crazy. It’s great, but it’s nuts.”
Stephen Vander Hart, the quarry’s current owner, said the boulder had been loaded since December and ready to roll since Saturday morning. All week, he said, bystanders had been coming by to check it out.
As the sun set Tuesday, commuters and neighbors gathered to pose with the boulder and buy Southern-style barbecue from an enterprising local chef. “We’re re gonna miss it,” said Vander Hart. “It’s pretty impressive. I think people are gonna get a kick out of seeing it out there on the road.”
The Rock will travel only at night. In addition to the first two stops in Riverside County, it will stop in Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights (it will be across the street from Pathfinder Community Regional Park both Saturday and Sunday), La Mirada, Lakewood, Long Beach’s Bixby Knolls neighborhood, Carson, and Los Angeles (near Exposition Park).
It will rest during the day and arrive at LACMA on Friday sometime before dawn. There, it will be positioned over the other half of Heizer’s artwork—a massive concrete trench on the Resnick Pavilion lawn.