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Rock Star. Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer opens at LACMA today

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jun 26, 2012 01:05 AM
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by Edward Lifson ( last modified Jun 25, 2012



The rather reclusive artist was present at the opening, but did not speak except through his art.
The rock though, is fairly mute. It will take time to hear it. And then it will be our sphinx.
What words, what forms, if any, strain to release themselves from this stone?

From left: Michael Heizer, his wife, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LACMA co-chair Terry Semel 
Standing: LACMA director Michael Govan 
(Click to enlarge)

The guests wished to touch the rock, does it already seem holy?

This fits into L.A. art themes of infrastructure, nature, landscape and floating. It differs though in that so much of the art here is about space and light, and color; and moving pictures and sound. Not so much about mass and anything pre-modern and solid.

Under the blue sky, by Renzo Piano's rather high-tech Resnick Pavilion, this sacred stone is beautiful and thought-provoking and animates the museum campus around it. One will look forward to seeing it, and listening for more from it, at every LACMA visit.

But I would prefer it came with less infrastructure, specifically less concrete channel. A more narrow channel going underneath, sized for fewer people, would personalize the experience and give the rock more scale and presence and power. As is, the concrete channel all but overpowers the experience of the rock. And the channel recalls the concrete walls along freeways (and the concrete channel the U.S. Army Corps built and maintains to direct the L.A. river.) 

I also wish the brackets with bolts that anchor the rock from the bottom were not visible, the rock would them seem that much more to levitate. We don't wish to see how the trick is done. These brackets are like the brackets that also hold up freeway signs. Levitated Mass does not want to be an elite version of a freeway underpass. 

Land art needs to balance the natural and manmade. Here, I regret to say, the manmade has the edge. 

Bringing a piece of land art to the city reminds me of how Central Park brought the New York State landscape with all of its meanings to the urban dwellers who could not afford to restore themselves by spending time upstate. These are fine intentions. But less powerful than the original experience of the nature in nature and of the land art in nature. 

Maybe land art is more powerful when it's "far away," so we desire it for a long while, and scheme about how to go see it, and with whom, then plan and finally undertake the journey, gaining in excitement and anticipation as the time grows closer and the distance lessens. 

And now Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass (why not Levitating Mass? Why give it an instant history?) is hereopen to all, and must-see. Photographs cannot convey the daring importance of this powerful and unforgettable work, an the antidote for so much of contemporary cultural production. Perhaps we are a great people/city/culture/nation. The mountain came to us.  

bottom photo: D. Hutt





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