Oh, it’s a rock.

Art, exhibitions

I don’t know about ya’ll but  I have been following the journey of the 340-ton granite boulder, known as Levitated Mass, since LACMA’s twitterfeed , blog blasts and Facebook posts sparked nation wide attention back in March. That’s when the rock traveled 105 miles, over a span of 11 nights (never going faster than 5mph) to arrive to LACMA’s grounds where it would become suspended  over a 456-foot long concrete channel. (As it traveled from city to city, crowds would gather to catch a glimpse and in one town, thousands of people even gathered for a street party around it.)  Michael Hezier, the artist and visionary behind Levitated Mass worked on  bringing this massive rock from a quarry in Riverside all the way to Los Angeles for nearly 40 years and the artwork cost a staggering $10 million. It finally opened to the public last weekend to a welcoming crowd, and is sure to become a landmark monument to Los Angeles. I love all the different meanings and interpretations I have been reading about the rock, so I thought I’d share some..

It is a monument to our own time and our own place and our own aspirations as people, and being made of stone, concrete and steel and engineered to withstand time, perhaps it will be here millennia forward to communicate those feelings to future civilizations. – Michael Govin, LACMA’s chief Executive from here.

This is a world event. This is sit-up-and-take-notice. Because L.A. will move the earth, and not only from the earthquakes. Marlene Picard from here.

Paris got the Eiffel Tower, Pisa got a leaning tower, Giza got the pyramids, and Los Angeles… got a rock. – @TheMattKnight

It’s such a massive monument in the heart of the museum. It’s a natural sculpture. It’s God’s Sculpture. – Gerry Wright, LACMA member from here.

some photographs that rock I found on instagram.

Levitated Mass by travisjordantan

Levitated Mass by Nenshi86

Levitated Mass by Raulroa

Levitated Mass by Jamesmorel

time lapse of the construction of Levitated Mass at LACMA

more articles.   here.   here.  & PhotoGallery. fun fact: It is speculated to be the largest thing moved by man.

*UPDATE: This is a wonderful more critical article on Levitated Mass and brings up an interesting point about possible interpretations.. READ HERE. 

67 thoughts on “Oh, it’s a rock.

  1. Maybe i’m missing the point , but where is the art in this ? and honestly why is this even remotely important ? aren’t there other things happening in the world that should be getting blog blasted twitter fed bla bla …this is also one of those things that separates artists who actually have a gift who can pick up a pencil a brush a marker a can of paint a blowtorch whatever u name it …and the artist who thinks hes an artist that closes his eyes points to something and self appoints an object that is already in existence as HIS/HER art , you can’t take credit for something you didn’t make….unless maybe i don’t understand art…hmmmmm

    Good post though on the other hand , and good luck with your journey to NY..maybe you’ll bump into me :D

    1. We are Obsoleet.. I think you bring up some very interesting points. Yes it is just a rock. The artist himself, had very little hand in it’s creation.. He went to a quarry and choose it but he also imagined it. What would it be like to take something that was created by the earth, move it, suspend it and place it at an art museum? That act in itself, changes the object. Just like Duchamp submitted his readymades into museums, by placing something ordinary into a different context, you change the object itself and provoke a conversation about it as art. For me, art has always been about that conversation. The fact that this rock can be just a rock to some people and signify other meanings to others, is just as interesting. Heizer, though he didn’t create the rock, created a platform for the rock to mean more than what it is. He transformed it while allowing it to remain the same… I am not defending it, or proclaiming it as good art.. but I do think it is interesting. And to see LACMA, make the public excited about something as ordinary as a giant rock, excites me. As someone who has worked in museums for the past three years, getting more people invested in their local museum is never a bad thing.

      Here is a great, more cynical look at Levitated Mass.. http://blogs.artinfo.com/lacmonfire/2012/06/25/levitated-mass-first-reactions/

      Thank you for your comment, I always love hearing other people’s reactions. : )

      1. I think they’re more excited about the fact that it’s a dangerous creation; for example if something were to fail in terms of it’s support system – many people would die :) I understand why people have started calling it art – but it’s not – it’s just an attraction. Native Americans created art by transforming the rock into something different yet allowing the natural material to remain its self any Africans and other cool cultures. But this guys seriously can’t take credit for anything.

        It IS indeed interesting though. You both brought up some valid points.

        Katie
        http://katieraspberry.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/how-to-get-traffic/

      2. I think artists in the past have done much less to change an object, than this. At least Heizer moved something that essentially has never been moved by man before. I believe there is a transformation there in which you speak of… it may not be as obvious as hieroglyphics, petroglyphs, or arranging them in a certain formation, but there is a transformation. I understand what you mean about it being more of a dangerous creation or an attraction. I think it is wildly interesting how both sides can be argued. Thank you for your comment and please come back to visit more often! : )

      1. I think it’s a nice piece of furniture, exterior decoration. I don’t feel I’ve to read into it in any way. It’s not telling me anything; there isn’t another heart or mind percolating through it, telling me of an experience or a new viewpoint that I ought to entertain.

        But still, it’s nice; and, if I lived there, I’m sure I could get attached to it. It is a beautiful rock.

        An argument over whether it’s art or not – to be fair to both the rock and more readily recognisable types of art, there should be just a new category marked off which the rock can be slotted. Then maybe this big territorial dispute over where the meaning of the rock lies might be dispelled.

        If I saw a big rock in someone’s back garden, or a huge rock in a vast back garden, I’m sure I’d think it lovely and would become accustomed to reposing in that part of the garden, and build up a nice assocation of memories around the rock. It would become an indispensible object.

        But to figure it out? It doesn’t provoke me; more relax me. A great big visual sedative for the repose of the soul.

        I find rocks in natural landscapes beautiful, so I’d be wilfully betraying that response if I singled this one out. It’s a beautiful piece of natural hugeness.

        The artist behind it? He’s had a nice enough idea for a piece of public furniture. But I’m not curious about him in the way I’d be about the man who wrote War and Peace. And I wouldn’t want to many ideas like that coming to fruition.

      2. I love those phrases… “A great big visual sedative for the repose of the soul.” and “It’s a beautiful piece of natural hugeness.” I agree I wouldn’t want more of these ideas coming to fruition.. but I do think Micheal Heizer has done some thoughtful work, most notably Double Negative which also tends to provoke a heated argument about what is or isn’t art. (http://doublenegative.tarasen.net/double_negative.html) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Negative_(artwork)

  2. Never been to LA . Is it possible that in a state with abundant wilderness, there are people to whom a boulder is a novelty? If so, maybe they will make a new connection to the natural world. It has interesting features – made obvious by your pics – well done!

    1. What a lovely thought and great way of looking at it. I thought the same thing about NYC’s public waterfalls.. did it really take bringing an artificial waterfall to the city, to get people invested in nature?

  3. We are Obsoleet.. I think you bring up some very interesting points. Yes it is just a rock. The artist himself, had very little hand in it’s creation.. He went to a quarry and choose it but he also imagined it. What would it be like to take something that was created by the earth, move it, suspend it and place it at an art museum? That act in itself, changes the object. Just like Duchamp submitted his readymades into museums, by placing something ordinary into a different context, you change the object itself and provoke a conversation about it as art. For me, art has always been about that conversation. The fact that this rock can be just a rock to some people and signify other meanings to others, is just as interesting. Heizer, though he didn’t create the rock, created a platform for the rock to mean more than what it is. He transformed it while allowing it to remain the same… I am not defending it, or proclaiming it as good art.. but I do think it is interesting. And to see LACMA, make the public excited about something as ordinary as a giant rock, excites me. As someone who has worked in museums for the past three years, getting more people invested in their local museum is never a bad thing.

    Here is a great, more cynical look at Levitated Mass.. http://blogs.artinfo.com/lacmonfire/2012/06/25/levitated-mass-first-reactions/

    Thank you for your comment, I always love hearing other people’s reactions. : )

  4. Wow! I didn’t realize it cost $10 million. Heard about it this morning on the radio and glad I stumbled upon this post :) Do you know if they transported this on the highway? I can’t imagine passing a truck with this massive piece of granite going 5 MPH ;)

    1. I read that it took months and months of planning the route. Since it weighed so much they had to be very careful of turns, overpasses and bridges. They could only travel at night as to not cause major traffic delays. It’s a pretty incredible feat! You can see the route the rock took here.. http://www.lacma.org/levitated-mass-map

      and if you happen to live in any of the zip codes it passed through, you get free admission for a week I believe.. : )

  5. This is the first I’ve heard of this; I live under a rock. Art is art is art. Rocks are very interesting and this endeavor has to be about the process rather than the object. What a great journey! Think of everyone you’d meet and talk with, have a beer with, and all the other things you’d see on the way. And your title gave me a much, much needed laugh today. Thanks, and congrats on fresh press.

    1. Thank you for the comment! It was a pleasant surprise being ‘freshly pressed’ and I only hope all these readers come back to visit! I agree, the process of moving it is very much about what makes this piece what it is… and even the fact that is sparks such a debate only further solidifies its position in the art realm. The art world has always loved a piece that is despised.

  6. Many a debate could be had regarding the art factor. Or the novelty factor. In the end I think it just goes back to that old cliche’ ” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Admittedly I think if I saw it I would be pretty amazed, alas, I am here in Western NY State and have no plans to visit LA in the near future. Once you spend some time in NYC ( my favorite place ever! ) I think you’ll see things just as unusual, artistic, pleasing to the eyes and ears as this beautiful installation of rock.
    I enjoyed your post and offer you congrats on being Freshly Pressed! oh, and say “hey” to NYC for me!

  7. Well , we are an interesting bunch , aren’t we??? Ayn Rand saw our “funniness” ( so to speak) when she wrote ATLAS SHRUGGED and FOUNTAINHEAD and maybe she even thought about in WE THE LIVING but hoped that different times, different place could make a difference. I do believe she was sorely disappointed!!?? (A bit off topic but maybe not so . It sure seems like there are those willing to gobble up the “latest” at any cost and proclaim it’s greatness even if they do realize that the king is naked!!!)

    1. Thank you for the comment. I absolutely love Ayn Rand and I am sure she’d be amused by the art world today. Whether the “king is naked” or not, I do believe it is worth the debate. Of my almost 3 years of writing about Contemporary Art, I have never had a topic that has provoked so many passionate remarks..whether it’s praised or despised. I love seeing people invested and actually talking about Art, even if it is just a rock.

  8. i find the whole project rather interesting. if i’m ever in los angeles, i will definitely go to see it…but i won’t walk underneath it.

  9. I find the artist of Levitated Mass very interesting. Sounds like someone very dedicated to his passion. I’m in L.A. so hope to take in the sight….although I’m still a bit hesitant to think of walking under it. Something about it gives me the creeps. Good Luck on your NYC adventure.
    Thanks for sharing. You Matter! Smiles, Nancy

  10. Thanks for sharing! I confess to total ignorance about this, and was simply lured in by your great FP photo. Well, I guessed it wasn’t the Rock of Gibraltor we were talking about!
    Not sure that I see the point but have read some of the comments and see where you’re coming from. Life- ever interesting, but I have to say that the money could be better spent. Cheers!

  11. Thanks for posting this. I love it, and I love all the “rock chatter.” There is a chapter written by a historian of science which discusses relationships between art, nature, and artifice that might be interesting to people circulating this blog entry. It is “The Glass Flowers” by Lorraine Daston in the edited volume “Things that Talk.”

    The glass flowers are artifice made to resemble nature whereas maybe we could say the rock, as it is now positioned, is nature made to be artifice.

    Daston writes in the essay: “…there is (with the glass flowers) the triumph of form over matter, of artistry over the resistance of natural materials: the sheer unsuitability of hard, brittle glass to mimic the delicate fronds, soft petals, veined leaves, fleshy fruits, and thready roots of plants turns these models into wonders. What would be ordinary in nature becomes extraordinary in art” (p. 224).

    Something to add to our thoughts on and chatter about the “thinginess” of this rock…

    1. Wow, what a great addition to this conversation. I think that fits in wonderfully and I will be sure to find and read that.. Thank you so much for the comment. I hope you continue to come back!

  12. Personally, although it is just a rock in a different place, it is also about potential. The possibility of a sculpture, moved before its time to a final resting place. When we see a mountain landscape, we call it sublime. This is a part of that landscape. And the ideas or thoughts it provokes are also part of the art it is creating.

    Jim

  13. Redjim, I think you are quite right. I just read this quote in the LAtimes and think it really applies to the comments I’ve been reading here..

    “Huge advance publicity set up a love-it-or-hate-it anticipation for either a masterpiece or a fiasco. But this work is neither. The sober, even solemn finished sculpture at LACMA reminds us that our headlong tendency to divide a world of rich, granular grays into stark black-or-white is its own form of ruin.”

    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/22/entertainment/la-et-knight-heizer-rock-20120623

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