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Michael Heizer's 'Levitated Mass' at LACMA is set to open

Los Angeles County Museum of Art officials anticipate thousands at the opening. Whether the reclusive artist will be among them is not clear.

June 22, 2012|By Jori Finkel, Los Angeles Times
  • Artist Michael Heizer
Artist Michael Heizer (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

Will the famously reclusive artist Michael Heizer show up for the grand opening of his "Levitated Mass" sculpture at the L.A. County Museum of Art on Sunday?

LACMA officials will say only that they "anticipate his presence." Then there's the larger question: whether the unveiling of Heizer's monumental artwork, featuring a 340-ton boulder suspended over a 456-foot-long concrete channel, will stir up anything like the public excitement the rock's 11-night journey through city streets did.

"Levitated Mass" is scheduled to open with a dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. When the ceremony ends around 11:30, visitors may begin entering the channel. After that, it will be open free from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, although guards can turn away people when it gets too dark. Word is that the channel can accommodate 456 people at once.

"We are expecting a large crowd for the opening on Sunday," said museum spokeswoman Miranda Carroll, who noted that they have prepared for 3,000 to 4,000 visitors. The museum is offering free admission to other exhibitions from Sunday to July 1 to anyone who lives in a ZIP Code along the boulder's transportation route. The boulder was moved from a Riverside quarry to the LACMA grounds in March on a specially made transporter.

At the public dedication ceremony, LACMA director Michael Govan and board co-chair Terry Semel will speak as will L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. But nobody is betting on Heizer's presence, and it would be surprising if he spoke.

Both reclusive and publicity shy, Heizer is arguably the Thomas Pynchon of the contemporary art world. He lives and works in a remote stretch of the Nevada desert, where he has spent the last four decades building a monumental "city" out of the earth that is not open to the public.

And with a handful of exceptions over the last 40 years, he has avoided interviews with art historians and journalists. Six years ago he spent time with New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman, and in April he talked with The Times about the origins of "Levitated Mass," a sculpture he first attempted with a smaller boulder in 1969.

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In that interview Heizer raised a question about the boulder's much discussed and photographed journey. "I think there is a draw from the rock itself, a magnetism we will see when the sculpture is completed," he said. "But will the artwork have the same interest value as moving the rock around did?"

jori.finkel@latimes.com

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