The Odyssey of “THE ROCK” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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It is 340-tons of solid rock. It will move stealthily under the cover of night. It will travel across the California landscape down inconspicuous side streets with police escorts stopping only when the sunlight stretches over the horizon in order to take cover.  Is this being some sort of comic book action hero you ask? On the contrary it is the newest piece of artwork to be displayed this upcoming November at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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This is the kind of epic odyssey only the Greek poet Homer could concoct. The massive piece of California granite, which looms at 21 feet wide and 2 stories tall, will make its way from the Inland Empire to Lost Angeles on a specialized 208-wheeled transporter at less than 10 miles per hour. The 72-mile journey will take 9 days.

“It’s not like anything we’ve ever done,” says John Bowsher, LACMA’s associate vice president for special art installation who is overseeing the transportation along with Emmert International, an Oregon based heavy-haul transporter. Though the artist, Michael Heizer, has concerns that parading the boulder through the streets might take away from the eventual totality of the sculpture there are still no plans to cover “The Rock” as it had come to be known. Heizer has also been worried about the possibility of scratches to the stone

The Rock was birthed into existence when the crew for Paul J. Hubbs Construction blew it out of the quarry wall. “Came right from the crown of the mountain,” marveled Dan Johnston a former project manager for the company. “Blast brought it down and it landed right in the middle of soft dirt.” Johnston knew the moment he viewed the magnificent boulder that artist Heizer, who specializes in large scaled artworks, had to see it. “The way it was shaped, I knew he’d love it. And he did, he fell in love.”

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Fall in love the artist did and late this year guests of the LACMA will be able to stroll beneath The Rock as a part of Heizer’s Levitated/Slot Mass. The Rock will appear as if it is levitating. LACMA directory Michael Govan was incredibly taken by the massive boulder from the beginning calling it “one of the largest monolithic objects moved since ancient times. Stephen Vander Hart the co-owner of Stone Valley Materials Inc, which currently owns the quarry from which the boulder came, spoke of Govan’s interest in The Rock, “He talked about how 400 years from now, people would ask, ‘How did this group of people move something this size? What was their motivation?’ California is all strip malls and franchises. Everything is brand new, at least here in the Inland Empire. We bury our history. But this is something that will be there for a long time.”

With great art comes great cost. There is rumor that the total move of The Rock will carry a price tag of $1.5 million. Vander Hart’s quarry crews could care less about having to part with the large stone, “We’ve had to work hard to not bump into it. Most of the guys here are just regular equipment operators, blue collar guys, love their wife and kids and they are just like, ‘Get it the hell outta here, let me do my job. They’re not that into art.” I guess some people just don’t know a true 340-ton masterpiece when they see it.

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