Naming Rights For A Rock

Creative flair is everywhere in the City of Angels and Angles,          and never has a city been more worthy of the saying, “Art is in the eye of the beholder.”

Wall murals, site-specific theatre, competing orchestras, random cows statues, otherworldly art installations, roaming, slow-motion mud characters, buskers, web series, TV series, above ground art walks, underground art exhibits, open mics,  closed screenings, L.A., has it all – good, bad, memorable and forgettable.

And rarely can you get two people to agree what merits applause or a closing sign.

True, one person’s artistic pleasure is another’s pain, and even if you’re not into that kind of thing, you can understand the foolishness that comes with trying to get people to agree if something is good art or bad art or even art at all.

I generally try to stay out of art arguments because paint gets everywhere and in the end no one is ever fully right,  especially, when it comes to big bucks museum acquisitions, where, perhaps, the more appropriate saying might be “Art is in the eye of the check holder.”

But I do have a thought about how art is named. Yes, named.

Which brings me to the giant rock currently floating outside at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art –LACMA.

Floating, as the hype around it purports that if you view “Levitated Mass” at just the right angle, you’ll believe it hovers in the air.

Now, the dictionary defines levitation as “to rise or cause to rise and float in the air, without visible agency, attributed, esp. formerly, to supernatural causes.”

It’s clearly not floating, unless, perhaps, you imbibe way too much wine during Friday night summer jazz at the museum

To some, the 34-ton rock is just that, an enormous boulder that was recently of this earth but not actually shaped by a person – in this case artist Michael Heizer – but rather by a controlled explosion at a quarry.

The earthly acquisition was clearly treated like a rock star once freed from its quarry wall. It was then Caterpillar-transported across two counties in an 11-day journey (and you thought traffic was bad) that culminated in a post-midnight Los Angeles parade that was spectacular and spectacularly expensive.

The slab was then positioned atop a long trench’s walls to complete the artist’s full vision.

Soon, it was open  for public opinion – everything from pure adulation, “It’s genius!’ to  incredulousness, “They paid ten million for a rock!”   Most are somewhere in-between those viewpoints. One thing is for sure, like it, love it or loathe it – the rock certainly invites conversation, whether you view it as great art or something that hangs out, floats above or balances delicately just outside of a facility that also has great art.

I’ve visited the 21.5 foot granite giant at least a dozen times now and have enjoyed viewing it from various angles and altitudes, but something has bothered me about it each time I’ve walked down into the sloped trench that clearly holds it aloft.  It has nothing to do with artistic merit.  It has to do with that name, Levitated Mass.

That the name doesn’t represent what I am seeing makes it hard for me to enjoy the rock for art’s sake.  I can’t help but wonder if it should have perhaps been named Giant Rock Resting on Parallel Trench Walls or something along those lines.  Then, I could just view and enjoy or not enjoy, but it would solely be based on content not label.

But a name is only a name right?  I mean, who cares?  Still,  I want to see that thing levitate.  Just once!

Hasn’t happened yet.


The Downtown Artwalk

Random Rock Stars




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