As you walk the streets of any city, you are bound to find pieces of public art meant to beautify the area with culture and a story. Some of those art pieces are self-explanatory: the bust of a founding citizen or the likeness of a prolific writer, for example. Others take a little staring into and perhaps the reading of their dedication plaques to understand them. Then, there are those sculptures that make one wonder just what was going on inside of the artist’s mind. Following are five of the latter; five odd pieces of art placed throughout Los Angeles that, once you get to know them, become beautiful and full of meaning.
Doug Hollis’ “Singing Beach Chairs”
These two strong, concrete-encrusted beach chairs have pipes (stainless steel tubes) rising 14 feet high out of their back rest and are actually meant to “sing” as the wind goes through them. It cost $17,000 to create this sculpture that invites you to climb, sit down and rest while looking at the ocean waiting for the wind to make some music. Created by environmental artist Douglas Hollis for the Santa Monica Arts Commission, it’s the first installation for the Natural Elements Sculpture Park.
Franz West's “The Unconscious”
This is a tangerine orange aluminum sculpture in a looping ribbon shape that rises 18 feet into the air. It has three seats integrated to it that encourage the viewer to get closer, sit down, touch and think. It was created by Vienna born Franz West, commissioned by George Comfort & Sons, the developer of the Gensler-designed building on Beverly Drive, as part of the Public Art Ordinance of the city. Some people think it looks more like a huge salmon/pinkish noodle. You’ll have to sit under it and see where your unconscious takes you.
Jonathan Borofsky’s “Ballerina Clown”
A huge clown dressed like a ballerina and hanging from a building is certainly something that demands attention. Creator Jonathan Borofsky figured the beach, a place where people hang out wearing whatever they want, is an appropriate place to discuss the duality in every human. In it the artist shows both man and woman (the clown, the ballerina) and two facets of performances (the street performer vs. the classically trained one).
Roxy Paine’s “Erratic”
In 2007, Roxy Paine built two enormous boulders made of stainless steel that became part of the Beverly Hill’s public art collection. At first look this sculpture is confusing because of its size, its uneven form and the lack of fusion with its surroundings. However, it is important to know getting stainless steel to stay in the shape of something this massive is an accomplishment in itself. Second, knowing the artist’s philosophy helps understand the piece: Paine said he believes humans and their work are an extension of nature, as natural as a tree. Therefore anything humans create is natural, even if it is made of stainless steel and contrasts markedly with traditional nature. As far as he is concerned, these stainless steel boulders belong in that park as much as any other rock would.
Terry Allen and Phillip Levine’s “Corporate Head”
This statue pokes fun at the working attitudes and the pressures that face business executives and employees that work for large corporations. The statue is of a larger-than-life man with his head stuck inside of the building. There is a poem by Levine placed on the ground and to read it you have to assume a position rather similar to that of the statue. “They said I had a head for business. They said to get ahead I had to lose my head. They said be concrete I became concrete. They said, go, my son, multiply, divide, conquer. I did my best.”