The perks of living in Orange County is that I am conveniently located an hour south of Los Angeles and an hour north of San Diego. Of course some of these times can change based on traffic but I feel like I can enjoy both cities without having to go too far. A few weeks ago my friend was in Los Angeles for a conference and she invited me up to the city to stay with her for a few days. I jumped at the opportunity because it has been a while since I’ve explored LA. I am semi familiar with the city, mostly with parts of Hollywood and along the coast by Santa Monica. While my friend was at the conference I lounged around the pool and took in the last of the summer sun. In the early evening when she was done we headed out to discover a new part of the city.
After some research I found that we were close to LACMA (Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art). Unfortunately the day we were going, Wednesday, the museum was closed but the park and outdoor installations were open and do not require admission. Parking can be a bit tricky, you can park on the street but just be mindful of the parking signs saying when and where you can park. We found the LACMA parking structure and decided to park inside. There is a flat rate fee of $16 to park but it is free after 7pm. It was close to sunset when we arrived at the park and I must say that was the best time to visit. Most of the people were heading home and the park was empty.
There are two large installations on the north side of the museum: Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer and Maria Elena Gonzalez’s Magic Carpet/Home. It’s amazing to find a twenty three acre park in the center of Los Angeles with a museum and a 340 ton boulder pinned above a concrete trench. Levitated Mass was assembled in 2012 and according to Heizer the work is meant to last 3,500 years. Heizer’s first attempt to create a similar installation was in 1968 with a 120 ton boulder. The crane that was used to lift it broke and so he abandoned the idea. At the end of 2006 Heizer discovered a larger rock at the Stone Valley Quarry in Jurupa Valley, California while he was working on another project. LAMCA’s director Michael Govan helped collect private donations and funding for the boulder to be removed and installed at the museum, the total cost is estimated to be around $10 million dollars. Walking up to the boulder you wouldn’t think you are in the middle of Los Angeles but instead somewhere where gravity does not exist. It almost appears as though the boulder is floating and simply held up by the two walls of the concrete trench.
The Magic Carpet/Home installation by Gonzalez is part of a series the artist has done based on the floor plans of public housing around the country. The Los Angeles version of Magic Carpet/Home is based on the floor plan of Nickerson Gardens, one of four housing projects built during World War II in Watts, a dense two square mile neighborhood in south LA. Many of the residents in these housing projects had to deal with racial violence, high rents, overpopulation and a limited access to schools, health care and transportation. By having this floor plan of one of the residences open and with no walls, Gonzalez is inviting the outside in. The reason it looks like it is a flying carpet is because Gonzalez wanted to create the idea that this “magic carpet” can take the person living in the apartment somewhere far away from their troubles.
The most famous outdoor installation at LACMA is Urban Lights, located on the south side of the campus. Many of you may be familiar with it because it has been used as a film location in movies such as No Strings Attached, Valentine’s Day, the show Glee and a Guinness commercial. In 2008 Chris Burden designed the installation of two hundred and two restored streets lamps from the 1920s and 1930s that once used to light up the streets of Southern California. There are seventeen different styles of lamps, each one varies based on the municipality that commissioned them. Ranging from twenty to thirty feet they are all painted grey, stand together in a uniform grid and are all solar powered. Burden started to collect these street lamps in 2000 with no specific project in mind for seven years. After numerous failed collaborations with museums around the world, Burden decided to choose LACMA to display his lamps. The lamps have been designed to last for thousands of years according to Burden (I’m seeing a pattern with LACMA artists having their work last for thousands of years). This installation is a unique backdrop and while we were there a number of people were having fun taking photos with the lamps.
Now that I have explored LACMA’s outdoor campus I can’t wait to see what is inside the museum, hopefully I will get to plan another visit soon. Los Angeles is an artistic city with a constant flow of creativity.
x the Adventurer
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