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Solar a Star in Los Angeles Art Scene

Sullivan Solar Power

Chris Burden's “Urban Light” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is quickly becoming a city landmark, playing a featured role in film, video, and television. And it gets its power from solar.

Burden's installation came to the museum in 2008 as part of a multiyear expansion and renovation plan. It's located in the BP Grand Entrance, an open-air pavilion that is the center of the museum grounds, the bridge between LACMA West and the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, and the museum's other galleries.

“Urban Light” consists of more than 200 vintage, cast-iron lampposts that Burden gathered from around Los Angeles, painted a uniform gray, and installed in a geometric layout that has been described as a “forest” or “temple” of light. Because the entry way opens to the street, the art installation is accessible 24 hours a day. (The lights are on from dusk to 10 p.m.) Its power source: solar panels make up the canopy roof of the grand entrance, which is framed in steel. The solar-powered entrance was made possible with a $25 million gift to the museum from BP.

The striking installation has drawn plenty of crowds since its premiere. Photographers have been taken with the multitude of possible images the installation provides; the museum held a photography contest to mark the first anniversary of the opening of “Urban Light.” Vanity Fair magazine used it for a photo shoot with cast members from “Glee.”

It's not just still photographers who are captivated by the scenery. Director Ivan Reitman chose it as a backdrop for a scene in his Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy “No Strings Attached.” It's also been included in the film “Valentine's Day,” a Tori Amos music video, and commercials. “Urban Lights” is one of Los Angeles' bright up-and-coming stars, and its brightness is due to solar power.

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