It’s unlikely that any of you can recall my previous blogs on “the rock” that was mined in a Glen Avon quarry not too far from where I live in Riverside County. In spite of the fact that the Los Angeles newspaper often ran updates on the snail-like pace in getting this rock to its permanent home at the Los Angeles County Art Museum, people in this area don’t usually read the LA newspapers and many were even unaware of its existence. For months and months it sat on a specially-built “transporter” waiting for the last “i” to be dotted by various governmental department bureaucrats so Michael Heizer, the artist who conceived this environmental sculpture in the first place, could set this particular hunk of rock in its final home.
Named by him “Levitated Mass,” the grand presentation finally occurred in late June. Off came the wraps and the 340 ton boulder was there for everyone to “experience.” I was lucky enough to be in LA this past week and I took the two young granddaughters to see it. I took the picture above. Because I am basically a total dodo about art in general and sculpture in particular, I had done a lot of reading over the months on why this was considered art and what environmental art was all about. And once the exhibit opened, I was interested in what the “professional” critics and the “letters to the editors” armchair critics had to say about it.
It’s probably a good thing I did all that reading because it kept me from being one of those strange people who were totally disappointed because they expected the boulder to actually levitate, which of course it never was going to do in anyone’s lifetime. I liked what I saw. (I would NOT have liked to see it levitate since that might occur during the predicted “Big One” that is on the way, although Heizer’s judicious use of steel shelves and thick bolts to anchor the rock down would hopefully prevent that from happening.) Anyway, I thought about the exhibit on many levels, all of which had been voiced by the critics in their roles of interpreter. I’m pleased to say that for a change I DID understand what they were saying, especially Christopher Knight, the LA Times Art Critic, who helped me a lot!.
My little granddaughters, ages 11 and 9, were patient while my cousin Nancy and I stood directly under the rock (which initially I said I was never going to do!) as we speculated on “meaning” and “form” and “metaphor.” I would go again to experience it but I think not insist that Jerry go along with me to see it, since with his engineering background he and I would not be seeing the same thing at all. If it is one thing Jerry isn’t keen about it is something whose value is “esoteric.” He would love the steel shelves and big bolts but he would not see any meaning anywhere, other than those of a practical nature.
At any rate, even after reading all the reviews and seeing it in person, discussing it with my cousin and announcing my own views, I am left with one stupendous thought: Did some people REALLY think the stone was going to levitate like the magician’s helper lying flat on a tabletop? I really suspect that some did. And that makes me laugh.