LACMA's 'Big Rock': A report from its first night on the road
LACMA’s “Big Rock,” as it’s been dubbed, is now enjoying the Big Sleep. It’s currently parked in a field by the side of the road at Mission Boulevard and Bellegrave Avenue in Glen Avon, having successfully completed the first stretch of its 11-night journey from a Riverside County quarry to the Mid-Wilshire museum. The launch went surprisingly smoothly.
The 340-ton granite boulder –- which will soon form the centerpiece of artist Michael Heizer’s enormous, landmark sculpture “Levitated Mass” -- embarked on its painfully slow, 105-mile journey a little after 10:40 p.m. Tuesday. On average, it traveled 4 to 5 miles an hour, with dozens of Emmert International workers, in glowing CHP vests, traveling on foot behind it.
As the rock’s massive, centipede-like transporter inched onto Granite Hill Drive, lit by over 300 string lights, the mood was less public art project and more engineering-feat-meets-the-Rose Parade. More than 100 people –- truckers, police escorts, media and museum workers, as well as art lovers and general looky-loos -– gathered to see the rock off. A helicopter hovered above, cutting the crisp night sky, and nearby parked cars honked in celebration.
Noticeably missing was the reclusive artist himself, who lives in Nevada.
“There’s nothing he can really do to help now,” said LACMA Director Michael Govan. “But he’s excited.”
So, too, is Govan, who was all smiles just before the rock hit the road. “When we started this, we weren’t sure if it would happen -- the engineering, the logistics,” Govan said. “But it’s great. A real gift for the public.”
The entire project –- the art rock, construction of its sculptural site and the move –- will cost upward of $10 million in private donations; LACMA paid $70,000 to the quarry for the rock alone.
Now, after nearly half a year of delays, mostly due to permitting issues, the monolith has one night under its belt. Though it traveled a five full miles Tuesday night, its final resting spot for the evening is just one mile from the quarry. The first night’s journey was a roundabout, U-shaped route that had the rock and transporter (a combined 1.2 million pounds) avoiding a bridge on Pedley Road due to Cal-Trans weight restrictions, said project manager Mark Albrecht.
The only real drama of the evening came with the rock's first major turn of its journey. The unwieldy transporter is 200 feet long, roughly two freeway lanes wide and has 176 wheels and 44 axles. Turning is no small feat and one of the biggest challenges of the move. The hairpin twist at Granite Hill Drive onto Country Village Road was cumbersome, taking well over an hour.
“We learned a few things there about steering the back wheels,” said Albrecht, “so that we don’t get into this pickle again.”
His brother, logistical superintendent Rick Albrecht, put it simpler: “I’m just happier than heck to see this thing go.”
-- Deborah Vankin
For tweets from the overnight journey, click here: twitter.com/debvankin
Photo: The 340-ton boulder for Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass" travels on a custom made transporter with 196 wheels as it moves toward its first overnight stop in Glen Avon. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times