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Public Art Creates an Elevated Mood

I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) last week to see Levitated Mass.

I love Michael Heizer’s work and travel miles to see it. His commissioned projects in Seattle and Reno are my places of cultural tourism. I saw Double Negative in decay in 1980 and City Complex in its early nineties form. I also love rocks. Igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic—I find in them extraordinary sculptures of time.

I loved the celebration of the journey of the rock (check out this video of the voyage) as it traveled from the quarry to the art museum at 11 miles per hour.

So the odd thing is that the rock isn’t the star in Heizer’s new commission. It’s the trench.

Levitated Mass is about the channel, the journey through the land. The 456-foot channel offers a tour of construction excellence and fetishistic form work. The concrete is polished to a matte marble finish; the finished edges and surfaces align perfectly over a huge distance. Even the discrete railing is a perfectly formed negative channel worthy of detail photos.

Like hiking in a Ruby Mountains canyon, or bouldering in Anza Borrego, the core aesthetic of Mass is the experience of perception in motion. In or out of the channel, its context at LACMA makes you look up. It gives you perspective on the development of the land, palm trees, and California.

Variety, the ‘entertainment paper’ headquarters, becomes a vain slab seen next to the monolith. This commission is truly a western work of art, reflecting the scale of the American continent.

A tiny quibble with the title: the two cleats securing the rock are big and visible. They are elegant, beautifully ground, and seem ideal for nesting swallows. But they tether the mass from every angle. Maybe the levitation refers to a journey?

Cutting to the chase: Levitated Mass has gravitas. This is an incredible work of art. I was a fan before it was cool. I was a fan before it was made.


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