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LACMA Rock, Michael Heizer's 'Levitated Mass,' Reaches Its Final Destination (PHOTOS)

CHRISTOPHER WEBER   03/10/12 12:38 PM ET  AP

'Levitated Mass' Arrives At LACMA

LOS ANGELES — Rock stars are a common enough sight in Los Angeles but it's not often when a rock is the star.

Los Angeles residents are coming out to catch a glimpse of a massive boulder that arrived at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art before dawn Saturday, after lumbering across Southern California for the past week and a half.

It will become the centerpiece of acclaimed earth artist Michael Heizer's latest creation, "Levitated Mass."

"The sheer size of it is just impressive. The size of the rock, and the size of the undertaking," said Ron Dickson, 64, who drove down from Burbank.

The 340-ton hunk of granite, accompanied by an entourage of about 100 people, left a dusty quarry in Riverside on Feb. 28, chauffeured toward its destination by a specially built carrier as long as a football field.

The convoy made it to Wilshire Boulevard at around 4 a.m. Saturday, with hundreds of people looking on and museum officials updating its progress on Twitter. In its final mile, the moving crew paused to pose for photos in front of LACMA's "Urban Light" exhibit, before turning north on Fairfax Avenue, then east on West Sixth Street to its permanent home on the museum's north lawn.

Miranda Carroll, LACMA's communications director, described a collective sigh of relief among museum officials when the megalith finally arrived.

"It's here!" cheered Carroll, who admitted she didn't get much sleep as she followed the journey's last stretch.

As the sun came up, the sidewalks along the lawn were filled gawkers clutching coffee cups peering through a chain link fence. Five-year-old Ariel, who lives a block away, snapped photos with a digital camera.

"We wanted to see what the fuss was all about," Ariel's mom, Julieanne, said. "But not enough that we wanted to come in the middle of the night."

As it made a long, circuitous journey toward the museum that was aimed at avoiding narrow streets, low-slung bridges and pesky utility lines, it was cheered on by what became an audience of tens of thousands.

At one stop a man proposed to his girlfriend in front of the rock. Later, when it arrived in Long Beach, that city threw a block party that attracted thousands of revelers.

There were a couple of small bumps along the way, however.

Because of its size, the rock could only be moved late at night and in the early morning, stopping each day at pre-arranged locations.

Two days into its journey it had to pull up two miles short of its destination when a transmission in the engine of the vehicle pulling it became balky. It was parked partially in the roadway of a highway just down the street from a freeway entrance in Diamond Bar, giving passing motorists an exceptionally good view of it.

It got back on schedule the following day, but as it navigated its way through South Los Angeles earlier this week, movers discovered two unaccounted for palm trees blocking its path. They cut them down and proceeded on, promising the community they would eventually return to replace them. In the last few blocks, several parked cars had to be towed to allow the carrier to make the final turns, according to Carroll.

At the museum, the rock is to be placed over a 465-foot-long trench, where Heizer has promised that visitors who walk underneath will experience the illusion that it is floating above them.

The artist, noted for mammoth-scale works in which the earth itself becomes his palette, is perhaps best known for "City," a Mount Rushmore-sized creation he has been building near his home in the Nevada desert for decades. He has kept most people from seeing it, but photos that have surfaced show a number of huge, pyramid-like buildings, some as high as 80 feet, stretching across more than a mile of desert terrain.

He came up with the idea for "Levitated Mass" more than 40 years ago, then spent decades searching for the right rock to pull it together.

He finally found one six years ago in the two-story high, 340-ton megalith he located in Riverside, 60 miles from the museum.

Because of the rock's size it took museum officials months just to work out an acceptable route to take it on. They finally settled on a roundabout journey that carried it through 22 Southern California cities.

Elizabeth Kuder, an artist and admirer of Heizer's work, strolled over from her house a few blocks away to snap photos of the site. Kuder said she believes the journey itself was part of Heizer's vision, pointing out how from some angles the rock appeared to defy gravity even while on the truck.

"It seems that "levitated mass" began the moment they were able to lift the boulder off the ground," she said. "It was levitating above the streets as it traveled. It was something to see."

The project, anticipated to cost as much as $10 million, is being funded by well-heeled museum donors.

With the rock finally in place, museum officials hope it will be ready to be unveiled sometime in the late spring or early summer.


Associated Press writer John Rogers contributed to this report.

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LA Times arts journalist Deborah Vankin wraps up months of coverage with this post about what it took to completely cover "Levitated Mass," from the installation's inception to its arrival at LACMA:

For me, it was the interminable "next week's story," forcing me to cancel interviews, dinner dates and out-of-town visitors at the last minute so I could travel with the rock; then departure dates inevitably turned into false alarms, usually because of one permitting snag or another. That start-and-stop routine reached a hip-hop frenzy by mid-February.

Read more about the cold, the (lack of) bathroom breaks and the Twitter malfunctions at the Los Angeles Times.

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Miranda Carroll, LACMA's Director of Communications, gives a graceful and coherent interview after being awake for 48 hours straight, just hours after the rock arrived at LACMA.

"We're just glad it's here now," Carroll said to CBS.

Now all LACMA has to do is dismantle the transporter and pop the rock into place in its new installation. No small feat!


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We were there when "Levitated Mass" arrived safe and sound at LACMA, and it was so beautiful to finally see it rolling up to its final destination.

You can follow the night's progression into morning at, where we live-tweeted the rock's journey from Koreatown to LACMA. But for now, here are the highlights:

  • The surprising number of dogs and babies that stayed up all night to usher the rock in to LACMA (PHOTO)
  • A unicorn finally gets his wish: to meet "Levitated Mass" (PHOTO)
  • Greeting art with art -- in this case, a giant grapefruit on a toy truck (PHOTO)
  • People getting restless and screaming out into the night air
  • The surprising number of people who parked their cars in the way of Levitated Mass that had to be towed

Browse the photos above to see the rock's journey from start to finish. If you'd like to send us any pictures, tweet them to @HuffPostLA.

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In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, LACMA director Michael Govan reveals how the rock is being protected from scratches and bumps along the road:

It was Michael Heizer who wanted to protect it from scratches, he was treating it very carefully. So he proposed that it be shrinkwrapped. It’s swaddled in high-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, placed between the wood blocks and the rock so as it’s moved it’s cushioned even further. It looks very cool, this white form, at night.

Read the whole interview about how Govan hopes "Levitated Mass" will impact LACMA and Los Angeles.

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@ LACMA : Update: after its early start last night, the transport made up its miles and arrived to Figueroa, north of Florence. #LevitatedMass

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Wednesday night's journey was cut short about 3 miles because of an overlooked utility pole and spots where the road got super-skinny.

The Los Angeles Times has more on what slowed the rock down:

On Atlantic Avenue near Spring Street, the 200-foot-long transporter carrying the rock found itself squeezing through its tightest spot yet. Because of a concrete island in the middle of the road, there was at best only two inches of space between the curb and the transporter's 176 wheels. At times, there was "zero clearance," said Emmert's Terry Emmert.

Hopefully, "Levitated Mass" can make up for some lost time tonight!

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ArtInfo asks, "Has LACMA’s 'Levitated Mass' Boulder Become a Meme?"

This adorable picture of a little "Levitated Mass" fan holding the rock in the palm of her hand says yes.

Photo by Katrina Serrano.


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Video by Thomas Naccarato shows a cheering crowd waving to "Levitated Mass" as it left La Mirada.

h/t LA Observed.

The rock is now stationed on the corner of South Street and Palo Verde Avenue. @LACMArock tweets, "There are strip malls on both sides of the street with PLENTY of parking! Come out for a visit and tweet your photos!"

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Now that the rock will be crawling into the more trafficked-parts of Los Angeles, road closures and timing are going to become more critical for Angelenos.

LA Weekly breaks down LACMA's route day-by-day (from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.):

Monday: Leffingwell Road > Valley View Avenue > Rosecrans Avenue > Carmenita Road > Moody Street > Del Amo Boulevard > Studebaker Road > South Street.

Tuesday: South Street > Paramount Boulevard > East Del Amo Boulevard > Atlantic Avenue.

Wednesday: Atlantic Avenue > West Ocean Boulevard > Magnolia Avenue > Pacific Coast Highway > Avalon Boulevard > East Carson Street.

Thursday: Vermont Avenue > West 190th Street > Normandie Avenue > Artesia Boulevard > South Western Avenue > West Florence Avenue > South Figueroa Street.

Friday: South Figueroa Street > West Adams Boulevard > South Western Avenue > Wilshire Boulevard > South Fairfax > West Sixth Street > LACMA.

The Department of Transportation has released this list of rolling road closures throughout the week, but since LADOT only deals with the roads within the city limits, this list of impacted streets only applies from Wednesday night to Friday night.

Pacific Coast Highway: from City of Carson limits to Vermont Ave.

190th St.: from Gardena city limits to Western Ave.

Florence Ave. & Figueroa St.

Adams Blvd. & Western Ave.

Wilshire Blvd. & Fairfax Ave.

LADOT's list of streets make up stops 7-9 on the LACMA route map.

View Levitated Mass in a larger map

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Photo by Twitter user ChiaAnnie.


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@ FakeDeitch : It's times like this weekend when I'm happy I'm not Michael Govan #levitatedmass #bigrock #lotsofpaperwork #imtelaxin'

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The journey of "Levitated Mass" has spurned interest in its destination: LACMA. From LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's blog:

Many of the visitors say the spectacle has made them aware of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the first time; this has especially been the case at the early Inland Empire and East San Gabriel Valley stops. More than 60 percent of LACMA’s visitors come from within Los Angeles County, according to museum statistics, and so far, not one of the congressional districts The Rock has passed through has more than 500 paid LACMA members. By contrast, the Mid-Wilshire-to-Malibu congressional district in which LACMA is situated has more than 17,000.

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Joshua Chow uploaded this video that sums up the massive undertaking that is "Levitated Mass." Enjoy!

#LACMArock in Chino Hills from Joshua Chow on Vimeo.

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The rock is rolling right now to La Mirada, where it'll stop at a prime viewing location. The LACMArock tweets, "There are strip malls on either side of Leffingwell Road with ample parking at my location tomorrow"

View Levitated Mass in a larger map

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@ LACMARock : Really enjoyed my stay in Rowland Heights! Tonight I'm headed to La Mirada and will spend the day on Leffingwell Rd, west of La Mirada Blvd

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@ LACMARock : Anyone planning to come and keep me company this weekend? I'll be in Rowland Heights on Pathfinder Rd, across from Pathfinder Park.

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"With all the attention the rock is getting right now, we think it's time to meet the slot," says Curbed LA. Head over to Curbed for photos of "the slot."

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The video is by NBC LA, but Simone Wilson from LA Weekly has the best take on it:

Ramone Vasquez' big question-pop to his girlfriend Maria yesterday may not be the most romantic proposal in the history of our romcom capital... but we're fairly sure it sets the record for number of rock puns employed while asking the woman you love to spend the rest of her life with you.

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In order to ensure no difficulty when resuming the journey again tonight, "the hauling company says it will bring in another engine to add push from behind," reports AP.

The rock stopped prematurely early Friday morning due to a transmission issue.

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@ LACMARock : Not very much convenient parking where I am today, but great to see some onlookers made it out for some pictures!

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@ LACMA : LA County Supervisor @ZevYaroslavsky: "Yes, it is art. Thoughts on a rock star." #LevitatedMass

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Good to know. For the whole story, go to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

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@ LACMARock : Congratulations to the lovely couple that just got engaged in front of me! Looked like he gave her a huge rock! #LevitatedMass

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@ LACMARock : @amandajcobb @CHPsouthern My entire move was paid for through private donors!

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Any relation to Emmert International, the heavy-load hauler transporting the LACMA rock?

@ BethanyEmmert : hope my dads project is going well down in LA! #levitatedmass

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@ LACMARock : Spending the day near the southwest corner of Ontario Airport @ the intersection of Mission Blvd. & Grove Ave. Who wants to keep me company?

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@ LACMARock : @HuffPostLA Spending my day sightseeing around Glen Avon. Got any suggestions?

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Just as the rock took off, the Los Angeles Times published this article about the scene at the Riverside Quarry. Interviews with heavy haul transportation company Emmert International reveal that last night has been a long time coming.

The move, which is being handled by Emmert International, is nearly half a year behind schedule -- largely due to permitting delays as it will travel through 22 cities and four counties. But that's nothing compared with how long Emmert's director of operations, Mark Albrecht, has been working on the project. "Three years now," he said. "The anticipation is killing me!"

For more, check out the Los Angeles Times.

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Filed by Anna Almendrala  |