Unveiling “Levitated Mass”

Three months after its festive arrival at LACMA ending a journey through 22 cities of Los Angeles County, the famous 340-ton granite boulder is finally part of Michael Heizer’s installation “Levitated Mass.”

LACMA opened the installation to the public on June 24, and some one-thousand curious and excited visitors showed up for the event. Heizer, who is a known recluse, was there for the dedication ceremony and stayed afterwards, graciously talking to visitors, signing autographs, and giving interviews to journalists covering the event.

Being a big fan of “the mass,” and having followed the process with great interest, I had to be there to see, experience, and photograph the final product.  The weather was spectacular (even “June gloom” decided to take a break) and the sight of the massive boulder against the clear blue sky with the beautiful pine trees in the background was very pleasing.

The 340-ton rock sits majestically on top of a 456-foot-long concrete slot, which descends to 15 feet in depth, runs underneath the boulder and goes back up. It’s an impressive work that required some complex engineering, given the weight of the rock and the need to address safety concerns, including those related to earthquakes. And this being L.A., we know there will be some…

Standing under the suspended rock one can’t help but feel small and vulnerable. These feelings are somewhat diluted when one’s in a big crowd like yesterday’s, but something tells me it might be a bit different if one stands solo under the massive rock.

To me, the only disappointing aspect of the installation is that the huge brackets used to secure the rock are exposed… They are ugly, intrusive, and take away the illusion of a levitated rock. I wonder if it wouldn’t be possible to cover them somehow. But then again, I’m sure this was not Heizer’s choice but most likely an issue of safety.

Levitated Mass has been a controversial project from the start and will continue to be so in the years to come. Opponents of the project continue to complain about its cost –many wrongly assume it was funded by public money– and now that the installation is completed, they think it’s ugly and don’t consider it real art.

Although many people see no value in this type of artistic manifestation, known as land art, I like it a lot. Among other things, the value of such art lies on the fact that it makes people think and talk about it. And, boy, are they talking about Levitated Mass!

See my slide show of Levitated Mass opening day:

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