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340-ton Riverside boulder on its way to LACMA for exhibit

June 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Most rocks at a Riverside-area quarry end up broken up into more manageable pieces by Stone Valley Materials workers. But when it comes to one rock, they know to steer clear.

"Our loader operators are very careful not to bump into it," said Stephen Vander Hart of Stone Valley Materials. "They have special instructions whatever you do, don't hurt 'The Rock.'"

"The Rock," as it has been aptly named, is a 340-ton solid piece of granite that will be put on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Artist Michael Heizer worked with the museum to acquire the enormous boulder for an estimated $120,000.

"I think he said when he found it, it was one of the most beautiful rocks he'd ever seen," LACMA director Michael Govan said.

But had it not been for a mistake, "The Rock" never would have gotten the attention it now has.

Three years ago, the company was blasting a hillside when the rock fell 180 feet, landing some feet away. It was due for more processing when it was discovered by the artist.

It will take eight days to move the boulder along city streets. To avoid a traffic nightmare, the move will take place at night.

A 200-foot trailer with 200 wheels will be assembled to cradle the rock on its journey west on August 5.

"It's 21 feet tall, 16 feet wide and 680,000 pounds, so they are going to have to take down power lines, utility poles, traffic signal lights - it's going to be a long 70 miles," Vander Hart said.

Once it arrives, the rock will be placed between two walls in a chamber to create an optical illusion.

"As you walk down, it does kind of levitate this huge mass of stone, levitates in response to you the viewers' journey under it," Govan said.

In November, "The Rock" will be unveiled in a new exhibit known as "Levitated Mass," far from the dusty quarry from where it came.


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