The Biggest New Sculpture on the American Landscape, the Hardest Kind of Review to Write
by Jen Graves
on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Courtesy LACMA and the artist
This is Levitated Mass. It's at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
When my Mom, who lives miles from a cultural center, asks me what I think of a new sculpture, I know the sculpture has entered celebrity ranks. Such is the case with Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass, which opened last Sunday in LA. (I wrote about Mungo Thomson's parody of it last week on Slog.)
I haven't visited it yet, so I can't comment on the art. But when I do, that will be the day I finally make it into the La Brea Tar Pits. Given Heizer's symbolism of the rock and the chasm and the closeness of the two attractions, it feels like one shouldn't be done without the other. And I do like art that inspires me to go farther than its own physical site.
What I can comment on is the review of it by LA's leading critic, Christopher Knight. He admits right off the bat that he knows what many people want from him: drooling, or spitting.
Huge advance publicity set up a love-it-or-hate-it anticipation for either a masterpiece or a fiasco. But this work is neither. The sober, even solemn finished sculpture at LACMA reminds us that our headlong tendency to divide a world of rich, granular grays into stark black-or-white is its own form of ruin.
This is the hardest kind of review to write, and probably has been from time immemorial, not just since Flickr. How does the price tag and the media spectacle enter into your estimation—your experience—of the artwork itself? How much extra-text enters the writing? How much do you acknowledge external expectations up front?
Knight's review is an exemplar of how to do it well.