Prior to the lecture, they will be guests in my LA302L & LA402L studios that are designing entries for the 2016 LAGI competition (entry deadline is May 15th), set adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier.
Site visit with LA302L & LA402L
LAGI 2016 is an ideas competition to design a site-specific public artwork that, in addition to its conceptual beauty, has the ability to harness energy cleanly from nature and convert it into electricity and/or drinking water for the City [of Santa Monica].http://www.landartgenerator.org/competition2016.html
Aerial view of Solar Field One at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) on October 27, 2012. Photo shows completed tower construction and heliostat (pairs of mirrors) installation. Mojave Desert, CA
Some of his photos evoking the Nazca lines or Michael Heizer’s Complex – this is quite the documentation of the infrastructural sublime.
Clark Mountain and ground work for future power block of Solar Field One. January 14, 2011.
View north of Ivanpah Solar showing all three solar fields with heliostat installation complete in Solar Field One in the foreground. October 27, 2012.
There is a remarkable amount of intact vegetation beneath the heliostats – making me wonder if it is possible to design a low-impact solar farm?
Installed heliostats in Solar Field One and adjacent section of undisturbed desert terrain of the site’s alluvial fan. January 6, 2012.
Installed heliostats in “safe” or resting position. June 2, 2012
Workers install a heliostat on a pylon in Solar Field One. June 4, 2012.
The creator of a toy-filled folk-art garden near downtown LA, Charles Ray Walker, has died. ‘Bamboo Charlie’ as he was known, created a uniquely personal landscape similar to the Islands of Dolls in Xochimilco, Mexico City. His garden is the latest contribution to Southern California’s folk art legacy that includes: Rhodia’s Watts Tower, Grandma Prisby’s Bottle Village, Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Museum, Rubel’s Castle, Salvation Mountain, and Alan Kimble Fahey’ recently razed ‘Phonehedge West’.
Let’s hope that Bamboo Charlie’s garden quickly finds a benefactor and guardian to preserve it’s unique character.
‘God is in the details’ to quote Mies, and some of the details and craft of Levitated Mass are the devil. If art can be defined by the highest level of craft, then more should be expected from Michael Heizer’s team – especially the engineers and the welders. Almost seems that the trench was designed before they found the rock, and the brackets were the ‘make-it-work’ solution with some of the sloppiest welds this side of a vocational school. So here is a rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Levitated Mass installation at LACMA.
Concrete – the good
The concrete work is highly refined at the level of a James Turrell Skyspace (but not equal to Tado Ando or other concrete masters), with a very smooth skimcoat on all exposed surfaces. I’m puzzled by the triangular notches at the ends of the trench (see above), as they are gratuitous interruptions to the visual pull of the rock. The integral ADA mandated handrails are quite elegant, and again invoke Turrell.
Earthworks – the good
The grading around the trench is quite precise, but seems designed for easy maneuvering of the bulldozer, not for visual or tactile effect. From the Cor-Ten rail edging, there is a gentle slope to the walls of the trench. This puts the Rock at waist height when standing next to it. First impression is that the soil of the slope towards the trench has been treated with a polymer stabilizer as it has a slight sheen and is darker (see below) then the adjacent decomposed granite surface. While suppressing dust and minimizing erosion are worthwhile goals, the desert that the decomposed granite is intended to evoke is a dusty and eroding place, so soil stabilization works against the larger intent.
That edging strip could be the crown of a railroad extrusion, if weathering steel was used for train tracks.
The official dedication ceremony for Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass is set for 11am on Sunday, June 24th at LACMA. Christopher Knight of the LATimes has an early review of the work with photos by Mel Melcon (all the images used in this post). Knight’s piece is a solid review that pulls in a myriad of non-obvious precedents, potential influences and narratives that haven’t been part of the discourse to-date.
“Levitated Mass” is a piece of isolated desert mystery cut into a dense urban setting that’s home to nearly 10 million people. A water-hungry lawn north of LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion was torn up and replaced by a dry, sun-blasted expanse of decomposed granite. A notched gray channel of polished concrete slices 456 feet across the empty field, set at a slight angle between the pavilion and 6th Street. Like a walk-in version of an alien landscape painting by Surrealist Yves Tanguy, quiet dynamism inflects a decidedly sepulchral scene.
What really, really surprises me about the installation are the hefty steel brackets that the monolith is mounted to. All preliminary descriptions evoked a rock sitting directly on the concrete walls of the trench, not mounted on massive steel corbels. The maximalist brackets are a significant shift towards structuralism and away from from Heizer’s minimalist material palette of soil, stone, and concrete (artificial stone). If hidden mountings and connections had been utilized for the rock (I’m thinking about Brian Murphy’s Hopper House) or other highly refined mininalist architecture, then we could have experienced the illusion that the boulder was hovering. As detailed, those gusset plates express the shear mass being supported and bring the levitating mass crashing back to earth.
Lots of architects have used similarly proportioned gussets with Cor-Ten structural elements – this is no Gehry, Eric Owen Moss, or Thom Mayne building though – perhaps Michael Rotondi is part of their lineage. (Here are some images of similar details: 1, 2). The artists that pop to mind from these brackets include Mark di Survero with his structural steel sculptures and Serra for his pioneering use of weathering steel.
The LAtimes scored a rare interview with the reclusive artist of Levitated Mass (opening June 24 at LACMA).
Photo: Mark Boster, Los Angeles Times / May 24, 2012)
“I think there is a draw from the rock itself, a magnetism we will see when the sculpture is completed,” he said. “But will the artwork have the same interest value as moving the rock around did?” … “I make static art, not dynamic art. That’s what I do.”
Static art” is Heizer’s shorthand for the longevity or durability of projects like the boulder installation, designed “to last 3,500 years,”
…”What I liked about this rock was 98% size, 2% looks.”
“The size thing is not some gimmick or attention-getting trick but a genuine undercurrent of the work,” Heizer said. “Frank Gehry for instance likes to imagine his buildings as sculptures. I like to imagine my sculptures as architectural.”
“The history of American art in a way begins with Jackson Pollock and his big paintings,” he said. “This theme of bigness — all painters and sculptors have dealt with it ever since.”
“My paintings are big too. I’m not very good at making small stuff,”
There are many cool things about co-teaching with Andy Wilcox this quarter at Cal Poly, a highlights has been our discussions about wildness and infrastructure. Even if he wasn’t a valued colleague, his paintings falls into the genre of infrastructural art that is frequently explored here (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7). So I’m very happy to help publicize his current show at Curbside Gallery in Santa Ana.
In the adaptation to and of the nascent and seemingly unorganized wild of the in-between lays a fertile future. There is a hidden layer of the city that crouches between roadways and bridges, factories and rails, curbs and gutters—a collateral infrastructure of mythic potential. Accepting this condition as the foundational structure for a higher functioning future, Untitled Infrastructures envisions a future of feral values and a wilder future. Welcome to the wilderness.