A Big Rock and a Bunch of Idiots

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has acquired, in its wisdom, a 340 ton granite boulder that will form the centerpiece of Michael Heizer‘s massive outdoor sculpture, “Levitated Mass.”

LACMA director Michael Govan points out that the huge rock is “only part of the sculpture,” which requires the  construction  of a subterranean slot upon which steel rails will support the rock, I mean the sculpture.

The largest part of the sculpture is the negative space, the channel in the landscape,” he says. “It has its own independent sculptural presence. The marriage of these two forms comprises the sculpture.”

When was the last time you got to hear the term “negative space” used without facetiousness?

Anyway,   the logistics of moving this huge rock are a nightmare. A company that moves “extreme objects” has been hired to figure out how to do it.   Some utility lines, street lights and stop lights will have to be taken down by the local area’s utility companies as the boulder passes through crowded urban areas, and the route the rock will take can’t be confirmed until permits are cleared.

At a cost of somewhere between $5 and $10 million dollars, this is a coup for LACMA.   Michael Heizer, the artist, is best known for “Double Negative,” the 1,500-foot-long land sculpture he cut into a desert mesa in a remote section of southern Nevada.

Breathtaking, isn’t it? To quote Heizer: “There is nothing there, yet it is still a sculpture.” So true.

As we ponder the meaning of art, the suffering of Sisyphus, and the value of ten million dollars, let us not forget that people are idiots.

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32 Responses to “A Big Rock and a Bunch of Idiots”

  1. carla fox Says:

    Yes……..and I have a bridge to sell to LACMA. A steal at only 5 mil.

  2. Devin Says:

    You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. I feel like this would/should be on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm…. and rightly so.

  3. gretchen Says:

    the emperor’s new rock would be a better title. the fact people believe the salesmanship of this (con) artist just kills me. such a massive waste of money that could go to just about anything else…maybe fund art in low income schools? or feed kids that only meals are at school and go without on weekends?

  4. Sam Says:

    You said it all without even saying anything.
    Utter wank & gobshite and I hope ‘positive-you-get-what-you-fucking-deserve’ takes over and they stub their toes on that fucking rock.

  5. littlebadwolf Says:

    art being in the eye of the beholder, it will take an emperor with a big clay foot to stub toes on this particular rock.

  6. Sheri Says:

    The emporer has no clothes!

  7. misfitina Says:

    there’s this revolutionary thing called building “to scale”. It does take math, but he might want to check it out.

  8. Jaimi Says:

    Man, never mind going back to school for a PhD and screw working at crappy temp jobs and restaurants for the time being — I’m just gonna be a full time bullshit artist!

  9. Suebob Says:

    The Emperor sure looks nice in that new outfit, doesn’t he?

  10. Make Do Style Says:

    Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaa it seems funny & then you realise it is unbelievable & bonkers. The idea of spending millions on a rock beggars belief & for what!?

    Jeff Campbell will be sticking bits of rock on wedges soon & selling them or over $400

  11. Jenny Says:

    You make my day!

  12. Debbie Says:

    Just read what happened in my city of San Jose, Ca.Quetzalcoatl
    By Patience Carter
    In the very center of downtown San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, stands the one and only public work or art commissioned by the city. It’s 8 feet tall and it cost a half million dollars.

    It’s a sculpture of a huge piece of dog poop.

    Not only was this done, but it’s still here. And there are no plans to remove it.

    How could this be true? How on earth did it happen?

    Here’s the story.

    Close your eyes and imagine a person with a lot
    of money and an enormous inferiority complex.
    What do you see happening?
    You’re right. It isn’t pretty.

    San Jose is best known for not being San Francisco. We don’t have the restaurants, the theater, the cute Victorians. When you say “The City” it means San Francisco and those of us who live here pretend to accept that. But that’s like saying Dione Warwick’s pop tune is on the same level of Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart in San Francisco. Which would be delusional.

    With the infusion of dot.com money, the City Fathers believed they could afford to buy some respect. Up went a subsidized Fairmont Hotel, just like they have in San Francisco. And tracks were laid and wires were strung for our cute little trolleys, some of which look exactly like cable cars. If we had a body of water, I’m sure there’d be a suspension bridge.

    And what about art?

    The City Fathers commissioned Robert Graham, one of the foremost sculptors in America today. He did the Olympic Arch and the Washington’s FDR memorial. He’s married to Angelica Houston and for a brief amount of time he actually lived in San Jose. (You know, San Jose, California, 45 miles south of San Francisco.). Graham was a perfect choice. He was born in Mexico City and the City Fathers wanted something that would honor our Mexican heritage and sizable Mexican-American community which was beginning to flex it’s political muscle.

    Graham proposed constructing Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god. It was going to a magnificent three story bronze sculptor illuminated at night with floodlights from nearby buildings. In the center of the city, it would be our show piece; it would put San Jose on the map.

    But the Arts Commission and Graham ran into disagreements. About money? About art? About Aztec myth? It depends on who you talk to. This much we know: Graham was sent back to the drawing board a number of times.

    Finally, it came down to this: The Arts Commission threw up their hands and said, “Here’s $500,000. Do what ever you want.”

    There’s a lesson to be learned here.
    You don’t give a person a half million dollars and carte blanch.
    Especially after you’ve pissed him off.
    Graham made a wax model of an 8 inch pile of dog poop which he didn’t show to anyone.

    Quetzalcoatl is a protean God that often chooses the form of being half bird half serpent. Graham’s Quetzalcoatl is a coiled snake with a subtle scales in the shape of feathers. After the shock of seeing a giant piece of dog poop, you can see it’s a snake. A snake that was made to look like a pile of dog poop.

    Instead of bronze, it was made of a cheap material called “rockcrete.” It was installed in the middle of the night and unveiled the next day.

    When the veil was lifted, the assembled dignitaries immediately applauded, but then the applause quickly turned weak and there was stunned silence.

    Arts Commissioners were cornered. “What could you have been thinking?” They pleaded innocent claiming they were victims of bait and switch.

    Graham was tracked down and questioned. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s what a plumed serpent looks like” which he said like he should know.

    Opposition to the statue was loud and widespread.

    It became a campaign issue against an incumbent city councilperson, Blanca Alvarado, and a successful one at that. How could such a thing have happened on her watch? A half million dollars down the drain. She floundered in the polls.

    But then she counterattacked.

    She claimed that mocking Quetzalcoatl was a roundabout, racist way of making her ethnicity an issue. Her counterpunch included claims that her opponent, who happened to be Anglo, was insensitive to the meaning that Quetzalcoatl held for Mexican Americans. It’s a Brown Thing.

    The Mexican American community quickly seized on that line of thinking that the opposition to Q was yet one more example of the White Power Structure disrespecting a proud people’s culture.

    “How dare you call it shit! If it had been a white artist making a white statue, you wouldn’t call it shit! How would you like it if I called Ben Franklin shit?”

    This is what they said in anger. This is what they said in public. What they said privately, among themselves, was quite different. And often said with partially suppressed giggling. But no matter. The White Power Structure had it coming.

    The attack against Alvarado backfired and she won handily.

    Her stunning victory has silenced opposition to this day.

    A lesson here about ethnic politics vs. art appreciation? Yes.

    A plumed serpent is what a Mexican says it is.
    I enjoy pointing out the statue of Quetzalcoatl to out-of-towners to see their reaction to one of San Jose’s most celebrated works of public art.

    “My God! Do you know what that looks like?” they usually say. “What is that?”

    A lot of people call it the revenge of Robert Graham.

    But a few nights ago, my son and I read a story about Quetzalcoatl that he checked out from the library. I didn’t see anything like Graham’s Quetzalcoatl. No coiled snake.

    But I saw something.

    In this particular story, Quetzalcoatl takes the form of one thing (a monkey) and then at the end of the story, transforms into something else (a huge man-eagle-snake thing) which happens to be to the advantage of the virtuous protagonist. The antagonists disparage Quetzalcoatl for what he appears to be and that is to their disadvantage.

    Things are not always what they appear to be, especially objects too great to be restricted to one form. And that’s not just from the teachings of Don Juan. Christians are to remember that the disheveled stranger at their front door might actually be an angel. Appearances are deceiving, especially to the insensitive and the unworthy.

    No coiled snake but it got me thinking. Maybe the statue is just a piece of dog poop to the insensitive, to those who glance at it in passing, to those who assume that something of great power and great value can be frozen in time and space. Those are the antagonists, who are of little faith, of shallow depth, and they prove to be the biggest trouble for true heroes. They tell the monkey to get out of the temple and they tell the angel to get a job, or go back to Mexico.

    What if this statue is actually a great statue? So great that it is like Quetzalcoatl in ways that transcend it’s current form?

    Yes, it’s ugly, but so was that little monkey in the story.

    The antagonists in the myth felt duped by bait and switch much as the Art Commissioners felt duped by Robert Graham. Bait and switch is Quetzalcoatl’s modus operandi.

    The protagonist, the one pure of heart, does not look down upon the lowly monkey. Perhaps we ought not to look down on this public art.

    Let’s not be too quick to loudly categorize what’s apparent.

    The form it is in today may not be the form it is in tomorrow. According to the myth, how we regard it today does not determine it’s fate but it might define our character.

    The final lesson might be this:
    If we need to see the patina on the rockcrete
    or the wings on the angel at the front door,
    we need too much.

    My favorite bookstore

  13. Debbie Says:

    Sorry, I couldn’t just put the link in.

  14. Em Says:

    A couple weeks ago I heard an art teacher talking about how at his inner city school, he gets less than $500 a year for art supplies. He’s been at the school a little over a year and he’s spent about $2000 dollars out of his own pocket to buy supplies for his students. He works a second job waiting tables so that he can afford to do that.

    For some perspective.

  15. Andra Says:

    Debbie, what a wonderful story. I just love it!
    Well done city fathers! A job well done.

  16. TheShoeGirl Says:

    douche.

  17. Witch Moma Says:

    Thanks Debbie, I loved the story. Ditto to SW for exposing this dilemma (?). T

  18. Tricia Says:

    Em – tell that art teacher to go to DonorsChoose.org and post art projects for funding!

  19. Tricia Says:

    And think of all that time and sweat equity Heizer is going to put into building that negative space, the “subterranean slot.”

  20. Jaimi Says:

    Debbie, that is brilliant. And Em, that is one of those small things that redeems my faith in educators. Sigh. What a world we live in!

  21. dana Says:

    that thing looks like a highway cut, without the highway.

  22. Kellie Says:

    negative space. The space in which nothing exists, yet you get paid for it.
    interesting concept for a twat.
    Or a really good conman.

  23. Princess HAha Says:

    Double Negative? Does that mean there nothing there and it disrupted or ruined habitat for crawling desert creatures? Like the endangered desert tortoise?

    Sometimes the well developed ego of the artist morphs into psychopathy. It’s depressing that the softer, more sensitive souls are more often underappreciated artists or unkown until after they’re dead…since they just can’t do anything for the sake of publicity like these dickheads.

  24. tobilynne Says:

    “As we ponder the meaning of art, the suffering of Sisyphus, and the value of ten million dollars, let us not forget that people are idiots.” < Brilliant. I haven't laughed that hard in a while! xo

  25. OBSART | Observatoire du Land Art Says:

    When the ‘Buren columns’ were created at Palais-Royal in the center of Paris, a lot of people were against the project. A lot of people were thinking to be treated like idiots by the French government… a few years later, people from all over the world come to see them. One should not laugh too quickly. One fine day, it will be the same for Levitated Mass. Just a question of time…

    Today, in Los Angeles, it is even harder to appreciate because the money to build Heizer’s artwork come from private funds. That’s just crazy, not the boulder but all these reactions…

  26. OBSART | Observatoire du Land Art Says:

    The main problem of the misunderstanding of LACMA’s project with Heizer surely comes from the global world crisis. But is it fair to blame artists, is it fair to blame artistic institutions ? Should it be not better to think about the real reasons of this crisis ? Ok, you don’t understand the Art of Michael Heizer, and maybe it is the same for Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim and so on. You’re lucky, you have plenty of amazing art experience in front of you… Ok, OK, Heizer is speaking to us with rocks, yeah, but maybe this boulder is largely more interesting than a lot of contemporary “projects” “curated” by our consumerist society. Sometimes, we should accept to listen artists, even when theirs projects costs millions. What is the cost of wars ? What is the costs of technologies ? What is the cost of false dreams ? What is the cost of our high-speed society ? We will all turn to dust… we should be aware of that.

  27. OBSART | Observatoire du Land Art Says:

    Sorry, I fought my first comment was blocked. Just a new try…

  28. OBSART | Observatoire du Land Art Says:

    The main problem of the misunderstanding of LACMA’s project with Heizer surely comes from the global world crisis. But is it fair to blame artists, is it fair to blame artistic institutions ? Should it be not better to think about the real reasons of this crisis ? Ok, you don’t understand the Art of Michael Heizer, and maybe it is the same for Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim and so on. You’re lucky, you have plenty of amazing art experience in front of you…

  29. OBSART | Observatoire du Land Art Says:

    Hello admin, thank you but now you should erase the 2 last comments + this one… All the best.

  30. Guy Says:

    The picture that you choose to show of “double negative” doesn’t really do it justice. A better picture is here: http://www.marin.edu/art107/images/HeizerDoubleNegativeAerialP.jpg

    I find that massive, linear and unabashedly artificial slot is shockingly alien in comparison to the fractal geometries of the land into which the slot is cut. It is jarring and unnerving, and in some strange way, utterly beautiful. Which I think might be the point.

    After reading all of the comments above, however, I’m already resigned to the conclusion that since I actually like this sculpture — I think it’s fantastic — I must be a moron. Oh well.

  31. michaelo Says:

    Our City of Angels will witness the unsurpassed grandiloquent arrival into town of a behemoth so monumental and remarkable, that no President or Pope, no queen or king, could rival in sheer majesty.

    The parade of this titanic granite boulder, as it plods, rolls, and slides to its home will fill people with awe, pride, and solemnity even as roads and bridges for lowly automobiles will be tested to their limits, and escape routes from closed off neighborhoods will rattle those who are going to important places.

    Space, deep space. Astronomers and physicists still don’t what it really is (think dark matter and dark energy). This work of art could (will) inspire thousands to at least get a philosophical taste of the enigmatic medium through which Earth and our Solar System are traveling at an incomprehensible rate.

  32. OBSART | Observatoire du Land Art Says:

    @ michaelo: about another majesty: http://obsart.blogspot.com/2012/02/un-bloc-de-180-tonnes-transforme-en.html

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