Today I went to see the last work of American artist Chris Burden, who died in May of this year shortly before this exhibit opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “The performing sculpture, Ode to Santos Dumont, pays homage to ingenuity, optimism, and the persistence of experimentation, failure, and innovation. Inspired by Brazilian-born pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, widely considered the father of aviation in France and Brazil, the kinetic airship sculpture was recently completed after a decade of research and work by Burden.” The work is powered by a quarter-scale version of a 1903 De Dion gasoline motor handcrafted by machinist and inventor John Biggs.” Biggs appears in my photos and is responsible for the performance part of the exhibit, which happens every two hours. As a Brazilian, I had to go see this exhibit before it closes next weekend. I took lots of photos and even made some videos (not quite my forte) that WordPress wouldn’t allow me to upload… So here is my ode to the late Chris Burden and to my compatriot, Alberto Santos Dumont.
Levitated Mass is an art installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It consists of a 456-foot-long slot, upon and at the center of which sits a 340-ton granite megalith. It is BIG! As visitors walk along the slot, it gradually descends to fifteen feet deep, running underneath the megalith before ascending back up.
Michael Heizer, the artist responsible for this installation, dreamed up Levitated Mass more than forty years ago, but only recently found the proper rock for it. The project included an 11-day journey to transport the boulder from a quarry in Riverside County to LACMA, traveling through twenty-two cities.
It’s an impressive work that required some complex engineering, given the weight of the rock and the need to address safety concerns, including those related to earthquakes. Standing under the suspended rock one can’t help but feel small and vulnerable. To me, the only disappointing aspect of the installation is that the huge brackets used to secure the rock are exposed. They are ugly, intrusive, and take away the illusion of a levitated rock. I’m sure this was not Heizer’s choice but most likely an issue of safety.
Levitated Mass was a controversial project from the start. Opponents complained about its cost –many wrongly assumed it was funded by public money– and after the installation was completed, they say it’s ugly and not real art.
This entry is part of Ailsa’s Travel Theme: http://wheresmybackpack.com/2013/08/16/travel-theme-big/