Like a Dream: Urban Lighting

Clothing is one way we distinguish ourselves from others, especially in dense settings like Los Angeles where it is easy to blend in. Chris Burden’s “Urban Lights” exhibit at LACMA stands out with a dense array of 1920s LA lamp posts.

Chris Burden, 'Urban Light' exhibit paired with LA Palm Tree
Chris Burden, ‘Urban Light’ exhibit paired with LA Palm Tree, 2013

The proximity of the lamp posts alludes to the density of LA. As I walked through the lamp posts, I was reminded of crowed downtown LA streets and roads outlined by buildings. These lamp posts look identical, but are distinguished by nuanced details on their bases.

Decorative stem on lamp post, 2013
Decorative base detail on lamp post, 2013

The lamp posts were also distinguished by the play of light and shadow that was different on each post, and by observation at different angles. These posts are everything but static even as they stand unlit during the day. The time day, sun, and clouds determine their appearance to interested onlookers.

As a public art form, we are also able to add our own artistic elements temporarily to create memories with this LA landmark.

David's temporary transformation of lamp post, 2013
David’s temporary transformation of lamp post @ LACMA, 2013

Clothing as a symbol of our unique identities is a tool we can use to give greater value to objects we appreciate. Above is a photograph of my boyfriend adding a part of himself to one of 200 lamp posts on display. The black color of his sweater sharply contrasts with the pastel grey hue of the lamp posts. The horizontal lines of the sweater interrupt the long parallel lines of the column’s grooves, but lead the eye to view the base details of the lamp post that distinguish the post.

The sweater also adds personality to the lamp post as it is connected with the sweet and kind persona of my boyfriend. Did my boyfriend tie the sweater on the lamp post to give it warmth ? To help individualize it among the muted mass of grey structures?

This is just one example of how we can add more value to our experiences with ‘everyday objects’ or art. The ‘Urban Lights’ exhibit isn’t just significant as a landmark of LA’s history, it stands as a viable open space where people can create their own memories and be subconsciously artistic.

My boyfriend’s intent was not to add his own artistic perspective to the lamp post (his purpose was to use the post as a functional object and  use the sweater to stabilize his camera phone to take a photograph). I interpreted what he was doing as artistic because I would have never thought to add the sweater to the post. I noticed that the sweater added strong visual elements to the post and decided to write my interpretations <3.

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