Arts & Entertainment

340-ton boulder megalith begins 2-week roll from Riverside to LACMA for 'Levitated Mass' exhibit (photos, map)

The boulder makes its departure late Tuesday night from the Riverside area.
The boulder makes its departure late Tuesday night from the Riverside area.
Steven Cuevas/KPCC
The boulder makes its departure late Tuesday night from the Riverside area.
Workers make final preparations Tuesday night before the boulder move begins.
Steven Cuevas/KPCC

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The giant boulder destined for an exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has begun its two-week crawl from Riverside. The 340-ton rock got a big sendoff Tuesday night as it left its home at a Riverside quarry.

The boulder will be the centerpiece of artist Michael Heizer’s permanent exhibit “Levitated Mass”. But the celebrity boulder has already become a piece of public art.

“It kind of is,” says LACMA spokeswoman Miranda Carroll, standing a few feet from the “mass,” which is now “levitated” atop a fire engine red trailer idling outside the Riverside quarry.

The granite megalith is swaddled in a snug white tarp that clings to its angular contours, not unlike the work of the artist Christo, known for wrapping buildings in fabric.

“I mean the completed artwork is 'Levitated Mass' with this very modern concrete slot with the very ancient boulder at the center piece,” says Carroll.

“But I think this is a feat of artistic engineering if you like, it’s beautiful in itself.”

We’re just a stone’s throw from the 60 Freeway, but this rock doesn’t roll at freeway speed. It’ll crawl at about 8 miles-per-hour.

A freeway trip isn’t possible because the boulder is too tall for some overpasses and too heavy for bridges. Crews will temporarily dismantle power lines and stoplights along the way.

They were presented with their first challenge just yards from the starting point.

“There’s quite a big hairpin bend at the end of this street and they're telling me it’s going to take about an hour-and-a-half to maneuver around that corner,” says Carroll.

“Because this transporter comes in segments, so each little bit will move a little bit, then it will have to adjust again, and it’ll take a while to move around a corner like that.”

A little before 11 p.m., the boulder-laden trailer makes its way on to the street under police escort. A parade of workers in hardhats walks alongside the heavy load, while dozens of onlookers watch from a distance, including Brent Brubaker of Riverside.

”When I go to LACMA and see this as a final product when it’s finally installed," Brubaker says, "to be here when it’s just starting to push itself along the freeway — fantastic.

“We all became part of this process. I love that I was here!”

View Levitated Mass in a larger map

The road crew hopes to cover about 9 or 10 miles a night. It’ll travel only after dark, along a serpentine maze of surface streets.

The whole trip should take 11 days. Christopher Kinsman and some friends toyed with the idea of actually following the boulder on its long, strange trip.

“We talked about doing a jog along with it, and how cool it would be to actually do a ‘boulder-dash’ with it. And apparently there’s already a ‘boulder-dash’ car!”

The whole route is 105 miles.

"You’ll see some very odd configurations on the road, there are a lot of straight lines though as well!” says LACMA's Miranda Carol.

The 340-ton boulder will eventually be hoisted atop a 450-foot-long outdoor earthen passageway at LACMA, hopefully by late spring. But that stone could be rolling through your neighborhood sometime in the next few days.