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Aspen Art Museum's Fourth of July float spoofs on LACMA installation

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The Aspen Art Museum will unveil its "Levitating Mass" float, featuring the work of Los Angeles-based guest artist Mungo Thomson, in Aspen's Fourth of July parade tomorrow.

Thomson's "Levitating Mass" is a playful take on artist Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass" installation, a 340-ton granite megalith at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) that was recently transported 105 miles from a rock quarry to the museum grounds on an eleven-day journey that garnered international attention.

The Aspen parody of this work will be tethered to the ground and remain on view for that town's residents and visitors to enjoy throughout the summer.

Thomson, who is known for his conceptually driven work, says the inspiration for his float was largely a matter of timing. "The invitation from the Aspen Art Museum to design something for a parade arrived when the rock was being paraded through LA," he says.

The temporal nature of the parade seemed like an opportunity to take a more light-hearted approach. "I thought it would be funny and even beautiful to take a more simple approach to making a rock float," Thomson says.

"Levitating Mass" is a giant, commercially-produced helium balloon made from vinyl with photographic imagery printed on it. Though Thomson hasn't designed a float before, he says he has "designed a couple of bouncy castles and an antenna ball, among many other things."

Creating the balloon was "a bit like constructing a garment, and the hardest thing is assembling the right pattern to get, in the end, the sculptural result you want," he notes, adding, "There was a lot of back and forth with the design, and a small test balloon was made."

Thomson has been traveling since Heizer's LACMA installation opened, but he has seen the mass through a fence and via photographs. "My impression of the work is still hard to separate from the media attention that the journey of the boulder received, but that will change," he says.

The Aspen Art Museum has commissioned a contemporary artist to make a Fourth of July float for the past seven years, according to Jeff Murcko, AAM communications director. This year, adjunct curator Matthew Thompson, who is working for the AAM from Los Angeles, chose Mungo because he thought it would be great to work with someone from the LA area, Murcko says.

The float will be paraded through town by Thomson as well as AAM exhibitions staffers. Following the parade, at 1:30 p.m. AAM will host its annual Old-Fashioned 4th of July Picnic on the museum grounds.

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