The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a non-profit institution that goes way back in 1910 where it was originally the Museum of History, Science and Art. In 1961, it separated so that it will be all about the Art. My impression of the museum is that it really has a rich collection of art pieces that is easily accessible. From the entrance, its lounges and corridors, it caters to different kinds of visitors all year round. Considered one of the largest art museums in the Western US, each specific exhibit room gives a tone or vibe just based from the art pieces displayed. Like when you start from the Art of the Pacific room, wherein you would encounter Pacific culture art pieces and religious artifacts that gives you mixed feelings about yourself. Then when, let’s say, go to the Egyptian Art, where the history is very rich of vases and stones and pharaohs. So it is an intersection of different cultures, traditions and expressions of individuality and freedom.
Of all the unique artifacts, art pieces, paintings and designs in the LACMA, I was really fascinated by the simplicity and beauty of the Urban Lights by Chris Burden. It is a visual masterpiece made from recycled street lamps that were found in Southern California during the 1920’s and 1930’s. According to an interview by Susan Freudenheim of the Los Angeles Times, burden was able to point out that the lights are what the museum should be that “but when you walk through the lamps into the museum, it’s like a pathway to enlightenment. It’s symbolic.”
This is the exact same feeling I had when I walked on through the forest of lights. It brings out a sense of exuberance and majestic delight to the soul. Burden was able to picture the exhibit as he passes by the Wilshire Boulevard every day before. It will complement the avenue from everyday traffic. Located at the front of the entrance to the museum, the forest of lights will be the first thing that will entice you to not just visit the museum but learn as well. It is a sight to behold since 2008.There is definitely symbolism in it that brings illumination to all because of the many lights that resembles a roof of clarity and subtlety… It’s that pillars of light arranged to form a temple-like structure just like the Roman temples of old that overall so in entering it gives light to every challenges you face in your life. It is structure similar to the Stonehenge, though this doesn’t have light, it represents the same, majestic and incredible feeling that you are as part of something grand.
Now how was he able to collect all this lamp posts? It was actually based on the idea that in the early 20th century, many neighborhoods in California designed their own lampposts that in time became a form of identity and public art. Burden was able to catalogue and restored its identity since 2000. He began collecting them in 2000. His first purchase was at a flea market for 2 posts amounting to $800 each and with that, he discovered a new subculture of “fanatical collectors who care deeply about cast iron.” Once he’d collected half a dozen, he figured he’d use them in his art (Urban Light: The story of LA’s great landmark for the 21st Century). Upon research, another lamppost art was exhibited by Sheila Klein, located at the East Hollywood drive that has been sitting for 20 years more or so, that may have given Chris Burden the possible inspiration (L.A.’s Original Lamppost Art). According to Michael Govan, who represented LACMA back in 2008, “they are neoclassical, assembled an honest-to-goodness LA temple made of local materials, in our time.” (The Story of Urban Light). This contemporary piece of artwork is both real and symbolic because it gives the audience ascendance of spirit and freedom made in our time. Could it have worked if not for Social media like Instagram? This would definitely make a great photo op for Tinder, or nearly anything else that requires a bit of surreality and lots of light! It may have worked of course but social media has glorified more its transcendence which has become more apparent as a subject of videos, posts, vlogs etc… that it now even has a hash tag. His work was so ephemeral, conceptual and performance based, that I’m glad there are physical works that will last and live on well into the future.
My perspective on this public art is all about luminescence. Light represents hope, clarity, individual shine and progression. It has become a landmark where people take pictures of these sculptures every day. Whether to visit the museum or just as a passerby, your imagination will be captured by this wondrous work of art, an experience that you will cherish. It is also a symbol of fulfillment and wondrous spirit. The sculpture advertises itself from a distance and draws the observer into a perceptually engaging interior space. From within, its enclosing form is fascinating; from without, its form has become undeniably iconic.