My 101 Things: Levitated Mass at LACMA

10 Nov

Over the past few months, I added four new things to the Done column in my ongoing pursuit of My 101 Things, aka the Day Zero Project, including “See Levitated Mass at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art).”

I’ll try to get to the other things in due time, but first off, let’s talk about the Big Rock, otherwise known as Levitated Mass.

People, Rock, Palm Trees

Artist Michael Heizer first had the idea for the piece in 1969, according to the blurb on LACMA’s website but it wasn’t until much later that he found “an appropriate boulder.”

Here’s what the good people at LACMA have to say about it: “Taken whole, Levitated Mass speaks to the expanse of art history, from ancient traditions of creating artworks from megalithic stone, to modern forms of abstract geometries and cutting-edge feats of engineering.”

Is it really cutting edge in this day and age to figure out how to plop a big rock on top of two supports that sits above a sidewalk? As you can tell, I was underwhelmed. I was expecting something hugely physical and world-blotting, like Richard Serra’s sculpture installation at MOMA in New York City, which I was lucky enough to see and experience in 2007.

Serra’s work, though actually smaller, at least in appearance (courtesy of the cool time-elapse video of the installation), made much more of an impact on me – in part because the subtle mechanics of the work: he figured out a way to engineer his pieces so that they would simply stand upright on their own, without some kind of ugly support marring the viewer’s experience.

I was intrigued by the idea of Levitated Mass, and it seemed to get a lot of good press initially, but the actual work and experience of that work far, far under-deliver. It’s basically a big rock – not a huge rock, not something amazing and reminiscent of the Egyptian Pyramids or even the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s just a big rock. On top of two ugly gray construction-site-type supports. Perched above a big sidewalk. Meh.

You may disagree. Maybe it’s the coolest thing you’ve seen in a while. Or you have no idea what I’m talking about. The good thing is that you can go see it without shelling out any funds. It sits on the North Lawn at LACMA, totally open to the public during museum hours. That, at least, I appreciate.

CityBoy and I also perused some of the other exhibits – Mr. Mister got us an annual membership to the museum, so we can pop over on a random Saturday or Sunday. This is my favorite way to experience a museum: at a leisurely pace, for an hour or two, with no pressure to “see it all.”

I know it’s probably lame and cliche, but I still love seeing Chris Burden’s Urban Light, also something you don’t have to pay to see. CityBoy thinks it’s a little too Disney, and I will grant that it is usually swarming with engaged couples on photo ops, but I think there’s still something compelling about it.

Ooooh. Aaaaah.

I hope you’re finding time to see and interact with art in your life.


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