Photography & Art for a visual hungry world



Chris Burden (United States, Massachusetts, Boston, born 1946)
Urban Light, 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" (M.2007.147.1-.202)
Contemporary Art Department.
Currently on public view: Outdoor Sculpture
Since gallery displays may change often, please contact us before you visit to make certain this item is on view. contact us
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.

These 202 cast iron lamps once lit the streets of Los Angeles. Burden bought 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, until 10pm. At night, Burden says his sculpture becomes transformed into “a building with a roof of light.”

L.A. Icons: Urban Light and Watts Towers;id=161897;type=101

October 15, 2010–March 31, 2011
Charles White Elementary School Gallery

As part of Art Programs with the Community: LACMA On-site, LACMA presents L.A. Icons: Urban Light and Watts Towers at Charles White Elementary School. The exhibition features historic photographs of Watts Towers, a selection of images from LACMA's Celebrating Urban Light contest & online exhibition, a sculpture by Ball Nogues Studio, and artwork by students from Charles White created in collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist Pato Hebert. A space for art making is also part of the exhibition.

In spring 2010, forty students in grades 3, 4, and 5 worked with Pato Hebert to explore Los Angeles icons. They participated in field trips to LACMA to view Chris Burden's sculpture Urban Light, to Simon Rodia's Watts Towers, and to their neighborhood park, historic MacArthur Park. During these field trips, students talked about monuments, how to capture and express ideas through photography, and their own responses to the places that they visited. Their photographs, drawings, and collective poems are on view.

About the Program

LACMA launched Art Programs with the Community: LACMA On-Site in 2006 as a multiyear partnership providing art programs and materials to schools, libraries, and community organizations throughout LAUSD Local District 4. The program includes artist-led workshops in classrooms, local libraries, and community centers; curriculum materials; professional development for teachers; and free youth memberships to LACMA.

Charles White Elementary School opened in 2004 on the former campus of Otis College of Art and Design. The school is named for the artist Charles White (1918–1979), who lived in the area and who taught at Otis for many years. The exhibitions SWAP and Journeys | Recorridos, also organized by LACMA, were on view at Charles White in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

This exhibition was made possible through the Anna H. Bing Children's Art Education Fund. Images: Watts Towers © Jo Farb Hernandez Urban Light © Jhonna-Lyn Estioko.

Since it was installed one year ago thanks to the generosity of the Gordon Family Foundation, Chris Burden’s Urban Light, a sculpture comprised of more than 200 vintage Southern California streetlamps, has rapidly become one of the museum’s most iconic permanent collection objects as well as a real landmark for L.A. The work also inspires all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. My colleagues and I have seen brides taking photos in front of it, schoolchildren playing tag in it, and even a music video being shot in its midst. For me, the best part of winter’s early nightfall is passing Urban Light aglow on my way home. I feel as if I’m punctuating the day with an especially effervescent glass of champagne.

Whether you have your own Urban Light experience or if you’ve not visited LACMA lately, we’re introducing plenty of new ways to engage you with this beloved sculpture.

For the main event, if you’re one of the thousands who’ve taken photos or shot video in front of Urban Light, submit your images to Flickr (photos) and YouTube (videos). The best of the best will go on view online February 25 as part of a digital exhibition curated by photography head Charlotte Cotton, and will be published in a print-on-demand book; selected creative writing inspired by the work will be included, too. Charlotte will also choose one winning photograph for the publication’s cover, which will be announced right here on Unframed on February 23.

Along with this call for submissions, we’ve got lots of other Urban Light projects going on. Check out Urban Light‘s Facebook and MySpace pages for discussion, back story, and news, and follow our Twitter for little-known details about the object. There’s an Urban Light PDA tour on the way, and much more.


Chris Burden's collection of restored lamps will put LACMA in 'Urban Light.'
January 30, 2008|Susan Freudenheim | Special to The Times"I'VE been driving by these buildings for 40 years, and it's always bugged me how this institution turned its back on the city," Chris Burden said the other day as he sat in a new public plaza facing Wilshire Boulevard at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Linking the soon-to-open Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the museum's original campus, this plaza is taking shape as the setting for Burden's largest sculpture to date, "Urban Light," an installation of 202 restored and fully operational vintage streetlights.

Wilshire is one of the main thoroughfares of the city, but LACMA's multiple tall, imposing and mostly unadorned facades have done little to address the endless stream of traffic that flows by, Burden noted. There's nothing like the grand Beaux Arts entry staircase that serves as a meeting place and a lure for visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "What faces Wilshire," Burden said, "hasn't been very inviting."


I haven’t been out to see it yet, but Will Campbell, LA’s seemingly everywhere cyclist, has an awesome photoset on Flickr of Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation at LACMA. I like the pictures I’m seeing of it, and I have a feeling I’m going to like it more when I see it, and besides, Angelenos need more reasons to get out at night, anyways. To be honest, I’m a bit LACMAed out right now – I’m taking a “I’ll catch up with you after the hoopla has died down” perspective on the BCAM opening.

Technorati Tags: site specific, Chris Burden, Will Campbell, LACMA, BCAM, Flickr, Urban Light, art, lamps

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