Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass,” a big rock now being installed on the LACMA campus, is almost exactly the opposite of the “Levitated Mass” he did in 1969, a much smaller rock dropped into a trench in a Nevada dry lake.
Nobody saw that piece in 1969 except the collector Robert Scull, who had commissioned it, and me.
Folks lined the streets to watch the current rock sleep during the day in Long Beach, for example, before moving on through the midnight streets.
In 1969, Heizer was rejecting the confines of the gallery/museum interior to work directly—and remotely— in Nature.
In 2112, the trucking of the rock has been turned into a media circus, as if the difficulty of the work mattered, as it surely does today.
Pollock dripped away inside a tiny shack/studio; today’s artists can command gigantic resources to realize their conceits (for them).
Being far-fetched—as “Levitated Mass” literally is—is difficult these days, because there’s been so much esthetic inflation.
LA Times critic Christopher Knight, for example, an ardent cheerleader for the new “Mass,” has compared the Heizer to some of LACMA’s other monstro commissions and concluded that Heizer’s is “just about as butch as it gets.”
Whatever turns you on, Mr. Knight, although, it seems to me, that Heizer is the opposite of butch; he’s not posing, he is—or at least was—if anything, a pure, that is, uninflected, man, an isolated, hard-bitten, outlaw. He was out there in the desert, by himself, using a pick ax and shovel in the hard pan of the dry lakes when Smithson was diddling on 57th St. with pebbles and mirrors.
Knight’s history is as shaky as his rhetoric: “Heizer conceived the sculpture 40 years ago. One might wonder whether the finished work will feel old-fashioned — an early ’70s relic, like bell-bottom pants, disco and Ms. magazine.”
Incidentally, Knight acknowledges that “Incidentally, a different Heizer sculpture also titled “Levitated Mass” was commissioned in 1982 for the former IBM building on New York’s Madison Avenue at 57th Street.)”
But Knight denies (to me in an FB correspondence) that Heizer is repeating himself.
He’s not, obviously; he’s flipped his principles on their heads.
Rewarmed an old (executed) idea.
And caved in to exactly the arty hoopla-camp that he once despised.