That very same day of slowly and idly wandering around the premises of Griffith Observatory, I also did a quick visit to Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to admire 202 cast iron streetlamps of assemblage sculpture by Chris Burden blooming right beside the building. Just in time to see the lights turned on as the evening closes in.
Streetlamps are one of the essential features of the urban landscape and in the early twentieth century were more than utilitarian objects that provided street lighting. In describing the work the artist has said, “Urban Light is an artwork that I have created by amassing and restoring a huge collection of 1920s cast-iron streetlamps from Los Angeles and its many adjacent cities. Streetlamps are one of the fundamental building blocks of an urban metropolis. The richly detailed fluted lamps are an ornate totem to industrialism and represent a form of public art. My artwork, Urban Light, is ultimately a statement about what constitutes a civilized and sophisticated city, safe after dark and beautiful to behold.
“By placing the 202 human scale lamps very close together and in long colonnades, I have usurped the lamp’s function as a streetlamp. Together they form a sculpture which I call Urban Light. The viewer’s experience of traversing through these tightly spaced fluted columns is an exalted one that recalls the marvel of seeing and walking through classic Greek and Roman architecture or a European cathedral. The feelings of recollection and wonder transform the streetlamps, day or night, into the sculpture Urban Light.”