Urban Light

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The Story of Urban Light

This week marks Urban Light's 10th anniversary. Since its opening at LACMA in February 2008, Urban Light has been unofficially adopted by Los Angeles as a symbol of the city and is indisputably the most popular artwork on campus... 

Chris Burden, 1946–2015

We are saddened to note the passing of Chris Burden, an artist who has left indelible marks in both the international art world and here in Los Angeles through his tireless, relentless pursuit of innovation in performance, sculpture, and performance-sculpture, among other media...

Urban Light

United States, California, Los Angeles County, 2008
Sculpture
(Two-hundred and two) restored cast iron antique street lamps
320 1/2 x 686 1/2 x 704 1/2 in. (814.07 x 1743.71 x 1789.43 cm)
The Gordon Family Foundation's gift to "Transformation: The LACMA Campaign".
Thanks to the support of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 2018, all 309 incandescent light bulbs were converted to LEDs, reducing the installation’s annual energy consumption by an estimated 90 percent, while also reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants.
(M.2007.147.1-.202)
Currently on public view:
BP Pavilion MAP IT
BP Pavilion

Since gallery displays may change often, please contact us before you visit to make certain this item is on view.

Curator Notes

This forest of city street lights, called Urban Light was created by artist Chris Burden. Despite initial appearances, the arrangement is not a perfect grid....
This forest of city street lights, called Urban Light was created by artist Chris Burden. Despite initial appearances, the arrangement is not a perfect grid. Depending on where the viewer stands, the lamps arrange themselves in different angles and arrays. The 202 cast iron lamps once lit the streets of Los Angeles. Burden bought the first one at the Rose Bowl flea market, and soon collecting and restoring street lights became an obsession. He painted them all the same neutral gray, in order to draw the eye to all the different varieties of cast iron decoration. Burden says that street lamps like these were symbols of a civilized and sophisticated city—safe after dark and beautiful to behold. The lights all still work, and they are now powered by solar energy. They are switched on every night at dusk, and are lit until 10pm. At night, Burden says his sculpture becomes transformed into “a building with a roof of light.” Since it was installed along LACMA’s Wilshire Boulevard entrance in February 2008, artist Chris Burden’s "Urban Light" has become "an instant landmark" [New York Times]. To celebrate its one-year anniversary, in January 2009, LACMA launched an open call for online submissions of "Urban Light"-inspired photographs, videos, and writing – the result of which is colorfully presented in the book "Celebrating Urban Light". A commemorative feast for the eyes, "Celebrating Urban Light" features 150 photos, poems, and video stills chosen by Charlotte Cotton, LACMA’s curator and head of photography department, from over 1,000 submissions. The book also includes a foreword by LACMA CEO and Director Michael Govan, a preface by Charlotte Cotton, and an excerpt from a conversation between Chris Burden and Michael Govan. Preview or purchase the book at: http://www.blurb.com/b/580267-celebrating-urban-light
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Bibliography

  • Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA's 50th Anniversary. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2015.
  • Cotton, Charlotte. Celebrating Urban Light. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009.
  • Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA's 50th Anniversary. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2015.
  • Cotton, Charlotte. Celebrating Urban Light. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009.
  • Thomason, Barbara A. 100 Not So Famous Views of L.A. Pasadena: Prospect Park Books, 2014.
  • Govan, Michael. A View from the Pacific: Re-envisioning the Art Museum. Madrid: Ivorypress, 2014. 
  • Muchnic, Suzanne. LACMA So Far: Portrait of a Museum in the Making. San Marino, California: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 2015.
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