During Christmas season this year, we spent a weekend in Los Angeles. One reason, I had to review two plays at the L.A. Music Center; another, on Sunday afternoon we wanted to go to the L.A. County Museum of Art in order to see to see what the “big rock” was all about. We stayed Saturday at Checkers’s Hotel on Grand which put us close by all we wanted to do. We love this historic boutique hotel, which dates from the 1920s.
The “rock” is the name for the giant boulder that is the heart of Levitating Mass, a recent art installation by Michael Heizer. The piece consists of a 340-ton granite megalith (stone), under which is a 456-foot-long underground slot, gradually descending 15 feet. All constructed on LACMA’s campus.
It was installed last June 26, but the rock had become famous well before it reached the museum. First, it was blasted off a Riverside quarry wall back in 2007 and sat waiting until spring 2012. Then the project was green-lighted, and the rock began its final journey – 105 miles to the museum, an 11-day trip through four counties and 22 cities.
People in every city on the way waited along the thoroughfares to see it come through. It was among “…the largest objects ever moved by man,” said LACMA Director Michael Govan. After it was officially installed, crowds have come to view it.
The experience of seeing this enormous object from a distance, approaching and circling it, finally walking under it, leads me to appreciate it as a work of art It is part of nature yet altered by man. What surprised me, though, are the hefty steel brackets that the monolith is mounted to. When I had seen photos earlier, I saw it as directly straddling the concrete walls of the trench.
Some have criticized the fact that it wasn’t balanced over the chasm, that the brackets destroyed the illusion that the boulder was just hovering. In many ways, though, this seemed impractical given its enormity. Others say they are not offended by the brackets, that they add man’s creative hand to the concept. And, perhaps they feel safer – just that extra bit of safety, especially in earthquake-prone Los Angeles.
During our recent visit, spectators stood under it while commenting on the differences in the grain from angle to angle, and whether those surfaces were natural or had been done in the blasting or transporting process. With camera/phones everyone today is a photographer, and they were along side, underneath and at each end of the tunnel shooting away, capturing the rock in sunlight and in shade and shadows. This rock may now be photographed as often as the hand prints in cement fronting Grauman’s Chinese Theater in neighboring Hollywood.
On our two nights walking from the hotel up Grand to the theaters, we took in Grand Park, opened last summer. It was a colorful holiday sight, leading down to the City Hall – all fountains festively lit up.
About Larry Taylor: Larry has spent 15 years in the newspaper industry, prior to teaching at Fullerton College in 1975. He retired in 2000. During his time in newspaper work and education, he wrote stories on travel and covered the arts (theater, music and culture). Today, his wife, Gail, takes photos. They travel and write extensively.