Michael Heizer is an artist whose work you tend to stumble upon—perhaps literally, in the case of the bewitching ribbons of rusting steel embedded in the lawn of the Menil Collection—and then can’t stop thinking about. He made headlines in recent years during the installation of Levitated Mass (2012), a 456-foot-long slot constructed on the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) campus, over which is placed a 340-ton granite megalith. That momentous, paperwork-laden process, which entailed a $10 million, 22-city tour for the boulder and its custom-made trailer, is the subject of a new film by Doug Pray (Art & Copy, Surfwise). Now playing in select cities, Levitated Mass weaves together Heizer’s biography, the dreams of a major museum, and the uniting of a city—all while proving that it is possible to make a fascinating film about a massive rock. Pray (pictured below), who happens to be the son of a geologist, made time between screenings to tell us more about the film and its making.
How did you first encounter the work of Michael Heizer?
Long before I knew about the work of Michael Heizer I had seen Adjacent, Against, Upon on the waterfront in Seattle, and, like millions of others, I’d encountered the smaller, running-water version of Levitated Mass in New York City, but I didn’t swim in it, so to speak. My first full, immersive experience was during the early days of our production on Levitated Mass while we were endlessly awaiting for the rock to get its permits and approvals and to move out of the quarry. I drove out to Mormon Mesa, near Overton, Nevada—about an hour and a half northeast of Las Vegas—and spent a half day walking around and inside Heizer’s massive Double Negative.