The Rock that became a star


As this year comes to an end, I look back on some of the news stories I covered: an arsonist loose in Hollywood,  the fight between adult film stars and AIDS advocates over condoms in porn,  space shuttle Endeavour’s move to the California Science Center,  a quadruple homicide in the San Fernando Valley, and ongoing fights over the toxicity of the Santa Susana Field laboratory, owned by Boeing Co. But some stories were just plain fun, like the giant rock that was hauled from a desert quarry, to the Los Angeles County Museum. I was at the unveiling, where political figures called it the new icon of L.A. I guess time will tell. The photos are from staff photographer David Crane. From my story: (Daily News, June, 2012):

The 340-ton granite boulder that rose to fame for its impressive transport through Southern California in March, made its artistic and public debut Sunday, where it was hailed for its natural beauty and deemed Los Angeles’ next visual icon.

More than 100 art patrons and dignitaries gathered at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the much anticipated opening of “Levitated Mass.” The interactive exhibit features the sharp edged boulder as a centerpiece, balanced atop a 456-foot-long slot where visitors can walk through and view the stone from underneath.

Museum officials said the sculpture compares and even surpasses the greatness of some the ancient world’s most famous megaliths.

“To me, it’s better than the ancient sculptures because it’s not about the power of the gods,” said Michael Govan, the CEO of LACMA. “It’s a monument of our time and of our own place.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky likened the work to other iconic monuments in the city, such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

“Art is in the eye of the beholder,” Yaroslavsky said. “Everybody will see (the boulder) in a different way, from a different angle.”


Besides the rock, the other star of Sunday’s debut was artist Michael Heizer, who wore a broad-rimmed cowboy hat but avoided addressing the crowd. Instead, he helped cut the red ribbon at one of the entrances to the exhibit, then led a flood of museum members and admirers into the concrete slot, which descends 15 feet down just beneath the boulder, before ascending again.

As he emerged on the other side, Heizer paused only to shake hands, sign autographs and answer a few questions from reporters who wanted to know how he felt to finally see his work on display after he envisioned it more than four decades ago.

“Community,” he said. “I wanted people to come to the museum. So far so good.”

Heizer, a Berkeley-born artist known for massive paintings and sculptures, conceived “Levitated Mass” in 1969 but didn’t discover the right boulder until six years ago at a granite quarry in the Jurupa Mountains, east of Los Angeles.

But hauling the giant stone, with its jagged peak and smooth faces, to its final resting place proved just as arduous as its discovery. The $10million move, paid for by the museum and private donors, required all sorts of logistical planning, from securing permits to timing the traffic lights.

In an epic, Gulliver-like move, the boulder was shrink-wrapped and hoisted onto a 294-foot-long trailer that would make a 105-mile-long, 11-day journey through four counties and 22 cities, mostly in the early mornings.

The scene attracted hundreds of spectators who lined their communities’ streets to watch the rolling stone that became a rock star.



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