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Art in Life Beyond

Read more to find about aspects of art integrated to locations outside the school and community of Episcopal High School

LACMA & Rasuchenberg 1/ 4 Mile 

By Hayoung Lee

Published 11/25/2018

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, also known as LACMA, has opened in 1965, and has been devoted to collecting artworks regarding history and geography, mirroring Los Angeles’s rich cultural heritage and diverse population. Today LACMA is the largest art museum in the West side of the United States, with over 135,000 objects in its collection that display 6,000 years of art history in various points of view.

The mission statement of LACMA is to serve the public through the collection, conservation, exhibition, and interpretation of significant works of art from a broad range of cultures and historical periods, and through the translation of these collections into meaningful educational, aesthetic, intellectual, and cultural experiences for the widest array of audiences.

The immediate sight to behold after coming to the museum may be a various elements, ranging from the stark contrast between the bright red and calm white and grey tints of the museum, to the compressed set of lamps named ‘Urban Light’ placed and concentrated at one spot in the seemingly empty space of the entire exterior of the museum.

If you arrived at the museum by car, they would first witness the elevator, leading them to the ground floor from the parking floor. The elevator is painted fully of red, with one of its side being completely made up a transparent glass. The elevator is not shielded by another layer, making its pipes and wheels completely visible. This element radiates a sense of freedom, emphasizing on the mechanism of the elevator to be shown.

Once you reach the first floor, you’ll see a wide, open space, with grey buildings with hints of bright red within them. While your reaction to this view could be that it seems to be dull, the red hues actually almost simplify the nature of the buildings, grabbing the viewer’s attention where it may be deemed necessary.  For example, the poles of the escalator, and the poles that stand at the edges of a pathway are bright red. These are important elements that one will have to bring their eyes to, in order to get to places.

Another instance is in the cafes, where the signpost is colored in red, the seats and cups are also colored of the same red hue. These are also places that need color in order to radiate a feeling of comfort. Like the elevator, the building of the cafes, Ray’s restaurant and Stark Bar are also greatly surrounded by windows, to again, give a sense of freedom, and emphasize the events of one eating their meal, happening inside, framing it as a piece of artwork.

It can also be noted that the cafe itself has artwork in it, of the wallpaper of patterns made by artist Bernard Kester, and the various kinds of teacups labeled from A-L made by Renzo Piano. The gray area accentuated by red hues of the buildings and the constant use of transparency may be to bring attention where it matters, to artwork, rather than to saturate the viewing experience by spreading the attention of the viewer.

Another sight to behold would most definitely be the Urban Light art piece by the artist, Chris Burden. Named the signature artwork of Los Angeles, it is a physical 3 dimensional piece of work that engages the viewer to make them feel as if they are in a maze of lights.

 The work consists of rows of street lamps, each set of lamps of a different style and height. The lamps in the center are the tallest, while the lamps at the edge are the shortest, giving the rows a symmetrical look when viewed from the side. The viewer can freely touch the lamps, walk through the gaps between.

Rauschenberg 1/ 4 Mile 

A strip of vivid colors stretches across the blank space. Each paint splatter, each paint stain, and each brush marks are covered of words, spreading out to different directions, white figures, posing of various stances, and photos of portraits. Mere visual imagery fills the empty space and overwhelms the eyes that witness its grandness and glory. Welcome, to Rauschenberg: ¼ Mile.

Robert Rauschenberg’s art includes a wide range of subjects, styles, materials, and techniques. Since the movement of Abstract Expressionism, he has been called a forerunner of many postwar movements. He began making art in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He believed that “painting relates to both art and life,” presenting a direct challenge to the prevalent modernist aesthetic.

His monumental The ¼ Mile, completed over the 19 years, exemplifies the artistic practice of his use of varied mediums. Rauschenberg also incorporated audio materials and photographs from the U.S., Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Northern Africa, he obtained during his travels.
The work is composed of 190 panels that measure approximately one-quarter mile in length. ¼ mile represents the distance between Rauschenberg’s studio and home on Captiva Island, Florida, representing his central belief in the fertile creative space between art & life.

Rauschenberg often referred to The ¼ Mile as a self-portrait, and it is replete with references to his life and artistic practice. Panels 44 to 60, 67, 68 and 74 portray outlines of family members, friends, lovers, studio employees, neighbors, and himself against an abundance of images and bright swaths of color. Permanent-marker was used to trace his subjects on fabric, which was then cut out and affixed onto saffron-dyed cloth he had acquired in Thailand. This section of The ¼ Mile became named to be “Bob’s Army” inspired by the third-century terracotta warriors evacuated from the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in Xi’an, China.

In many of these portraits, Rauschenberg pictured objects or artworks he associated with subjects. Panel 59, which is a part of “Bob’s Army,” is a direct reference to the artist. It features a traced figure of Rauschenberg’s body placed next to images associated with him: his Siberian Husky, Star; mangoes and avocados, fruits native to Captiva Island, where he lived and worked; and motifs such as birds, cars, a parachute, a shirt, and a reference to astronomy.

Panel 46, depicting photographer Emil Fray, includes a camera. In panels 52 and 55, Rauschenberg's friend David Case and fellow artist David Bradshaw are cleverly accompanied by reproductions of Michelangelo’s David (1501). Rauschenberg incorporated watches into panel 56, which portrays Donald Saff, a skilled horologist, a friend, and collaborator of the artist’s and the artistic director of the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange. The stained glass window Rauschenberg includes in Panel 47 conveys the religious devotion of his mother, Dora. Rauschenberg’s use of fabric may also refer to his mother: Dora: the artist admired the resourceful way she made clothing and used every scrap of cloth.

Overall, Rauschenberg’s use of multiple photographs to represent an individual saturates the viewer’s perception of the depicted individuals’ personalities and interests. On the other hand, simple figures of each individual removes focus from their exterior appearance, almost giving the idea that one’s identity is defined primarily by their thoughts and passions rather than their physical appearances. The use of bold colors and textures, such as the orange in the background, the thickly lined figures and the strongly defined shapes of the photographs also further add on to the saturation in the representation of the individuals, overwhelming the viewer’s visual experience and engagement with the artwork.

Rauschenberg began experimenting with the sculptural, textural, and reflective properties of metal in the 1980s. Created in 1983, panel 66, a 3-dimensional piece, is a precedent to another one of Rauschenberg’s projects, Gluts (1986-94). Gluts is a series of freestanding assemblages made of scrap metals. The use of debris consisting of signposts, automotive parts and other industrial parts, further emphasize the artist’s use of heavily defined textures and strong colors. The plant placed in the wagon of the artwork changes at each exhibition. Rauschenberg specified that this plant component of panel 66 should be native to the location where The ¼ Mile is exhibited. In this case, LACMA chose agave plants to be displayed.

Other 3-dimensional artwork of Rauschenberg incorporated sound, motion, and light. In panel 186, traffic lights of the colors, red, yellow and green blink to a rhythm set by an electric timer. Panel 185 is comprised of a ring of metal numbers, letters and a traffic arrow that rotates on an automated clockwork mechanism. The utilization of such kinetic movement in pieces of art allows people to engage more deeply with the piece. Rauschenberg claims that “If you’re just looking, it can be deadly,” as a “the hush space can interfere with what you’re seeing.” It may be that by having movement be present in his art, Rauschenberg believes that it is giving the viewer a sense of direction to guide their perception.

Cite sourced: "Rauschenberg: The 1/4 Mile." New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933 | LACMA. Accessed November 27, 2018. http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/rauschenberg-14-mile.

Cite sourced: "Rauschenberg: The 1/4 Mile." New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933 | LACMA. Accessed November 27, 2018. http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/rauschenberg-14-mile.