Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Levitated Mass"

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently introduced its newest VIP in a Riverside quarry: the 340-ton, 211/2-foot-high granite boulder that will form the centerpiece of Michael Heizer's massive outdoor sculpture, "Levitated Mass."

When the piece is complete, the rock will sit on steel rails at ground level, north of the Wilshire Boulevard museum's Resnick Pavilion. A 456-foot-long, ramp-like slot in the ground, descending to 15 feet deep, will run beneath it. The rock will appear to levitate above people walking through the underground channel.

Because of its size and weight, bringing what LACMA calls "the monolith" to the museum is an intricate, complex, potentially dangerous and very expensive process that has required more than a year of logistical preparations. It's one of the heaviest objects to be moved since ancient times, says museum director Michael Govan.

"It's much contested, the movement of monoliths in ancient times. The estimated weights of certain objects are speculation. But it is pretty clear that this is one of the largest monoliths that's ever been moved," Govan says.

LACMA is working with Emmert International, a company that specializes in moving "extreme objects" like nuclear generators and missiles, says project manager John Bowsher. Emmert is building a custom "transporter" around the boulder that will likely be 200 feet long and almost three freeway lanes wide. A road will first have to be carved out of the quarry; then the transporter will travel to LACMA at night, on closed roads and at less than 10 mph, led by a police escort. The approximately 85-mile journey, normally a one and half hour drive, will take a circuitous route lasting a week to 10 days.

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