“It’s something to think about when you’re stuck in traffic.” So said Los Angeles-based artist Chris Burden at this morning’s press conference inaugurating Metropolis II—his eye-popping fantastical collision of the fine and decorative arts, assemblage and, hey, urban planning thrown in—at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Five years in the making, the work is officially described by LACMA as “a complex, large-scale kinetic sculpture modeled after a fast-paced modern city” Burden, in his artist statement, adds that it “refers specifically to Los Angeles, but an idealized Los Angeles of the future where traffic flows at ten times the rate it does now.”
Another description? A boy’s Erector Set-Matchbox car-train set-Fritz Lang fantasy on steroids executed with a Daddy Warbucks budget and an army of assistants. A New Yorker’s likely assessment? Utopia-dystopia, nobody walks in L.A.!
A view from above (with the artist standing far left):
From Floor level:
Hitting the road: The piece’s armature—steel beams forming a grid interwoven with a system of 18 roadways, among them a six-lane freeway, train tracks and hundreds of buildings (which, Burden clarifies, are not modeled after any specific structures, their purpose only to reflect eclecticism and modernity).
Revving up: 1,100 miniature cars vroom through the city at 240 “scale miles per hour” (hence Burden’s quip to think of Metropolis II whilst idling in gridlock). The piece, situated on the ground floor of the BCAM building, is on long-term loan from LACMA trustee and billionaire Nicholas Berggruen (last week The Art Newspaper reported that his plans to build a museum in Berlin appear to be in hold, and that he currently favors long-terms loans to LACMA. Our links aren’t currently working but here’s the address: www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Berggruen+builds+collection+for+Los+Angeles/25444).
Born in 1946, Burden is a SoCal arts big gun. He has been since the early 1970s when his ephemeral-performance-conceptual pieces captured the art world’s spotlight. His efforts cannot be faulted for failing to explore extremes—both in the attempt to attract notoriety and in corporal pain. This is the artist who had himself shot (Shoot, 1971), locked up (Five Day Locker Piece, 1971), electrocuted (Doorway to Heaven, 1973), and cut (Through the Night Softly, 1973), drowned (Velvet Water, 1974). His Urban Light installation of vintage streetlights at LACMA, facing Wilshire Boulevard, is a people pleaser on the scale that museum and county officials take note of. Metropolis II will likely do the same for the young, the young at heart, and visitors wishing to distract the kids with a dream (or Blade Runner-ish nightmare) of tomorrow.
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