Los Angeles, August 8, 2012
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Thursday, August 9, 2012
Rock of Ages (on Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass)
rock of ages
Michael Heizer Leivitated Mass, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2012
So much publicity aroused public interest, that the museum gracefully invited people from all those neighborhoods through which the “rock” had traveled free visitation to the opening, which Howard—a former curator at the museum—attended; I had another event on that day). The crowd was so intense, that Howard did not even walk “under” the monumental natural force—which is what the whole experience of this earth-works-based piece is all about.
I’m delighted, actually, since the installation exists across the street from our condominium, that the “rock” is so appealing to audiences. One hopes for the museum’s success. It defines our neighborhood. But there are some doubts. My intelligent typesetter, Pablo, visited it with great consternation: "I didn’t want to walk under it and it seemed just like a cold concrete tunnel.” Others had had similar responses.
Yet, it wasn’t the fear that made this impossibly large project so memorable: I was much more awed by the two (now one) Richard Serra (Band, 2006) sculptures embedded in the basement of the Eli Broad Gallery nearby. This large “rock,” which can never be properly perceived as immense as it truly is, seemed like a place to simply “duck and dodge,” a massive natural image that didn’t quite belong to the space upon which it was impaled. It may be, as director Michael Govin has stated, it is an art piece that shall survive for a very long time, but one can only wonder at the poised rock: will the major earthquake we certainly will suffer in the next several years crack that natural symbol in half? And, if that rock were to survive, we can only ask what it might tell us about its own natural existence, now so carefully positioned into a museum installation. Is nature truly an expression of the large natural manifestation such a constructed situation? What does it mean to be poised there? And, most importantly, we must ask, why has a significant force of nature been brought to be installed there for millions of dollars? The question is not whether or not it is art, but whether it is an expression to capture our pagan need to worship natural images? Can one absurdly transferred rock compare to the millenniums of constructed stone pyramids? The comparison is, of course, ridiculous. As wonderful as Heizer’s rock may be, it is clearly not a rock of ages.