The Times Square V-J Day “Kiss,” memorialized in a Chelsea mural, left, and across the continent, in San Diego. Both photographed within the past 10 days.  #ww2 #art #vjday #timesquare #chelsea #sandiego #photography #mural #sculpture

The Times Square V-J Day “Kiss,” memorialized in a Chelsea mural, left, and across the continent, in San Diego. Both photographed within the past 10 days. #ww2 #art #vjday #timesquare #chelsea #sandiego #photography #mural #sculpture

Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie go fishing like it’s 1960 on CBS, at Pullen Park, Raleigh, N.C.  TV Land installed this statue here in 2003. Somebody has since walked away with Sheriff Taylor’s #fishing pole. #andygriffith #raleigh #gonefishing #sculpture #tv #tvland

Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie go fishing like it’s 1960 on CBS, at Pullen Park, Raleigh, N.C. TV Land installed this statue here in 2003. Somebody has since walked away with Sheriff Taylor’s #fishing pole. #andygriffith #raleigh #gonefishing #sculpture #tv #tvland

A gift to #NYC: The UN Secretariat, reclad in new cool green glass, punctuated by the Barbara Hepworth sculpture in the plaza. Perfect. #architecture #un #sculpture

A gift to #NYC: The UN Secretariat, reclad in new cool green glass, punctuated by the Barbara Hepworth sculpture in the plaza. Perfect. #architecture #un #sculpture

Pops, the #route66 emporium of #pop (#soda) is a modern but instant classic of the Mother Road. #sculpture #sunset

Pops, the #route66 emporium of #pop (#soda) is a modern but instant classic of the Mother Road. #sculpture #sunset

Proud lion. #nypl #nyc #libraries #library #manhattan #sculpture

Proud lion. #nypl #nyc #libraries #library #manhattan #sculpture

Why is there a cow outside this East Village walkup on East 12th Street? Fiberglass cows, each uniquely decorated by artists, were placed all around the city in 2000. They were sold off and this one ended up here. Note the design: it features the skyline with the Twin Towers. This was 2000, after all. #art #publicart #sculpture #cows

Why is there a cow outside this East Village walkup on East 12th Street? Fiberglass cows, each uniquely decorated by artists, were placed all around the city in 2000. They were sold off and this one ended up here. Note the design: it features the skyline with the Twin Towers. This was 2000, after all. #art #publicart #sculpture #cows

Madison Square Park art installation meets Met Life tower, the world’s tallest from 1909 to 1913. #art #sculpture #parks #skyscrapers #nyc

Madison Square Park art installation meets Met Life tower, the world’s tallest from 1909 to 1913. #art #sculpture #parks #skyscrapers #nyc

After 40 years of delays, the Four Freedoms FDR memorial at Roosevelt Island is open RIGHT NOW for previews. You must visit this Louis Kahn masterpiece, finished 38 years after his death. I’ll have more pictures on The Retrologist soon. #fdr #memorial #nyc #sculpture #architecture

After 40 years of delays, the Four Freedoms FDR memorial at Roosevelt Island is open RIGHT NOW for previews. You must visit this Louis Kahn masterpiece, finished 38 years after his death. I’ll have more pictures on The Retrologist soon. #fdr #memorial #nyc #sculpture #architecture

The Unisphere, that iconic relic of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, gleams in the autumn sunlight. #queens #art #sculpture #nyc  (Taken with Instagram)

The Unisphere, that iconic relic of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, gleams in the autumn sunlight. #queens #art #sculpture #nyc (Taken with Instagram)

Chris Burden’s ‘Urban Light’ repurposes vintage L.A. street lamps and turns them into a magical, instant landmark

It’s become an instant landmark of Los Angeles, and it’s easy to see why. Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” is a work of art that transfixes and fascinates, that compels you to explore it, and that resonates with you long after you’ve seen it.

Burden’s work features 202 vintage cast-iron street lamps, mostly from the Los Angeles area, which he painstakingly collected, restored and painted gray. (His first purchase was at the Rose Bowl flea market!) Through a fortuitous chain of events, his lamps ended up clustered as “Urban Light” on a plaza outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, back in 2008.

Explains Burden in the placard beside his work: 

"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.”

Burden told the Los Angeles Times that the sculpture’s success says a lot about the city itself. "New York has plenty of landmarks, but here the field is wide open — it’s easy hunting."

The work has shown up in a commercial for Guinness beer, where it was used to serve presumably as a symbol of Los Angeles, and in the movie “No Strings Attached.” Its director, Ivan Reitman, told the Times he was seeking “iconic places” for his flick. “It’s an extraordinary beacon,” he told the Times. “It lights up a desperate part of Wilshire that felt almost abandoned at night.” See a still from the movie HERE.

I first saw “Urban Light” during a visit to Los Angeles earlier this month, and it immediately rose toward the top of my list of places I need to see every time I’m in my favorite city on the West Coast. (Finding “Urban Light” was also a reminder of why I need to hit up LACMA each time I visit. Case in point: I missed the Eames living room during my previous visit and am still kicking myself.)

I was also intrigued because I had seen many similar vintage lamps “in the wild,” while exploring the streets of Downtown Los Angeles. (Much more coming soon on DTLA, by the way.) Nothing prepared me for seeing 202 lamps clustered together, ever single one lit, outside a museum.

As you can see from these images on Google, the sculpture is a wild success, and has become a beacon for those in the throes of romance.  No matter whether your heart is occupied or not, a visit here is magic.

Go around dusk and let the night settle in. 

Text and photos: Rolando Pujol