Levitated Mass


The newest monumental outdoor artwork installed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass—a 456-foot-long concrete slot constructed on LACMA’s campus, over which sits a 340-ton granite megalith. As visitors walk into the slot, it gradually descends to fifteen feet in depth, running underneath the boulder into an open central chamber before ascending back up. Levitated Mass will open to the public on June 24, 2012 and will be situated north of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion, near the museum’s 6th Street entrance.

Levitated Mass was made possible by private gifts to Transformation: The LACMA Campaign from Jane and Terry Semel, Bobby Kotick, Carole Bayer Sager and Bob Daly, Beth and Joshua Friedman, Steve Tisch Family Foundation, Elaine Wynn, Linda, Bobby, and Brian Daly, Hanjin Shipping Co., Ltd., Richard Merkin, MD, and the Mohn Family Foundation. LACMA has dedicated this acquisition to the memory of Nancy Daly, former chair of LACMA’s board of trustees and an influential advocate for children and the arts in Los Angeles. Transportation of the megalith was made possible by Hanjin Shipping.

Levitated Mass was originally conceived by Heizer in 1969; a drawing of the work is in the collection of the Staatliche Museen ze Berlin. The original attempt to build the sculpture took place in 1969 when a 120-ton rock was obtained by Heizer in the Sierras above Reno, Nevada. Although a slot depression had been excavated in a northern Nevada dry lakebed to set the megalith on, the rock proved too heavy to load, breaking one of the two cranes being used. The slot was never combined with the megalith. In 2007, Heizer was working at the then Pyrite-Hubbs Quarry in nearby Riverside County when a 340 ton megalith came off the quarry wall during a detonation. The large size and impressive scale of the boulder were perfect criteria to realize Levitated Mass. It was soon developed between Heizer and LACMA director Michael Govan that this work could be constructed at LACMA.

Due to its massive size, the boulder required a complex and thoroughly reviewed transportation process from its quarry to the museum, a distance of approximately 105 miles. Its transportation took place over the course of roughly eleven nights which began on February 28, 2012. The transporter carrying the boulder travelled on a specially designated route—covering four counties (Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, and Los Angeles) and twenty-two cities—with movement happening only at night. At 340 tons, the boulder was one of the largest megaliths moved since ancient times.

The boulder is one component of the artwork, as is the 456-foot-long slot beneath it and the surrounding environment. As with other works by the artist, such as Double Negative (1969) or North, East, South, West (1967/2002), the monumental negative form is key to the experiential nature of the artwork. Taken whole, Levitated Mass speaks to the expanse of art history — from ancient traditions of creating artworks from megalithic rock, to modern forms of abstract geometries and cutting-edge feats of engineering, as well as the modern philosophies underlying Heizer’s work of using negative space and volume as “physical” or measurable entities in major proportions in his sculptures and paintings.

Key statistics

Weight                                    340 tons
Height                                    21 1/2 feet
Width                                     21 1/2 feet
Length of slot                            456 feet
Depth of slot (at lowest point)           15 feet
Interior width of slot                    15 feet
Exterior width of slot                    19 feet

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