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Big rock arrives at Los Angeles County Museum

March 10, 2012 |  6:46 am


After a nearly two-week journey, the Los Angeles County Museum’s newest acquisition –- a 340-ton boulder that has already garnered international attention -- and its massive transporter arrived at the Wilshire Boulevard campus about 4:30 a.m. Saturday.

Hundreds of people, armed with cellphone cameras and noisemakers, turned out to welcome the big rock, the centerpiece of the museum’s new outdoor installation called “Levitated Mass.” The rock made its way from a Riverside quarry 105 miles away, drawing big crowds in every suburb and town along its route.

No sooner had the boulder's 176-wheel transporter truck stopped in front of LACMA’s main entrance when its power generator went out, resulting in a final 30-minute delay and an opportunity for hundreds of onlookers to surge forward.

PHOTOS: Giant rock arrives at LACMA

Some people crowded around the big rock and posed for snapshots.

Others, including M.M. Green, 34, laid the palms of their hands on its protective shrink wrap. The chance to touch the rock brought smiles to the faces of everyone, except Green.

“I came a long way to touch this thing, and it felt very impersonal –- I expected more intimacy from this rock,” said Green, a video artist.

He dug into his pocket for his keys, took the largest one and reached underneath the rock and ripped a hole in the shrink wrap. Then he poked his fingers through the hole and beamed.

“I felt the rock with my fingers, and it was very gritty,” he said. “I’m having chills, if that means anything.”

He flashed a Cheshire cat grin and said, with the keys extended, “I’m going back for seconds.”

Standing on a nearby curb was the museum’s director, Michael Govan, with his 7-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, perched on his shoulders, watching the scene unfold.

By 4:45 a.m., the transporter’s generator was fixed and the caravan began to roll again. At that point, Govan’s daughter blurted out, “Daddy, can I go to the bathroom now?”

Earlier Saturday, as hundreds of onlookers gathered around LACMA’s outdoor "Urban Light" exhibit on the Miracle Mile, Jim Etue was handing out small flat stones to random strangers, along with an unusual challenge.

LACMA rock has mass attraction

“Hi there! I’m a conceptual artist,” Etue said to each in turn. “If you would be so kind, please sketch on this stone whatever is on your mind or in your heart at this moment. There are no rules.”

In less than an hour, eight people had put pen to stone with surprising artistic results. One man drew a perfectly rendered lamp post similar to those in the "Urban Light" display. A woman visiting from Korea inscribed her stone with the numerals “106,” in reference the time, which was 1:06 a.m. Yet another woman printed the words, “we’re defying reality” in the middle of a puffy cloud.

Then there was Badou Sakho, 42, who inscribed his stone with a cheery observation: “The camaraderie. It feels good to see people together.”

“My goal is to move people to create a little rock art of their own,” Etue said, admiring his growing collection of stones lined up in a row on a retainer wall near the museum’s entrance. “People should not be put off by being asked to create art on the spot. As you can see, some are not.”

Etue said he came up with the idea only an hour earlier.

“I’m going to share these rocks with the world on LARocks.com,” he said, “which is something I decided to do five minutes ago.”


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-- Louis Sahagun at Los Angeles County Museum

Photo: People line Wilshire Boulevard with cameras ready as the 340-ton rock arrives at LACMA. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times