PUBLIC WORKS

Public art project lights the way

A California city brightens one of its boulevards with LED art.

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The City of West Hollywood, Calif., is beautifying its public spaces through its Art on the Outside program, via its Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission. Taking place July 2014 through June 2015, the program engages local artists to place art in parks, along roadways, and in other locales to be enjoyed by the populace.

The program’s latest installation is “Illumetric,” consisting of dramatic, large-scale geometric shapes that radiate bright colors. The pieces are created by Shana Mabari, a Los Angeles artist whose work focuses on the interaction of art, science, and technology.

“As an artist, I cultivate visual stimuli by engaging information through the retina, outward to the physical world. Scientists reverse that process of human cognition, collecting such information through the retina inward, assessing how it directly affects brain activity,” she says. “I want to bridge that gap, and create beautiful and seamless experiential interpretations of our surroundings.”

Eye-popping color

During daylight, the diamond-, cube-, and rectangle-shaped sculptures that comprise “Illumetric” radiate bright primary colors. As the sun goes down, the pieces begin to glow from the inside.

“The three sculptures are a study of color, geometry, light, and scale,” she says. “Primary colors and geometry connect us in the most basic form. My vision was to create a connection with the public through artwork that allows all to feel a common element, a togetherness, and sharing an experience that connects us as a community.”

The sculptures are huge, and weighty, ranging from 600 to 2,600 pounds. Each is made of 1/2-inch colored cast acrylic with transparent interiors for maximum illumination. Each has a 6-inch steel pole down the center, bolted into a 30-inch-deep concrete base in the median. The LEDs (from LEDtronics) are connected to city-provided electricity through underground conduits.

Mabari worked with LEDtronics street and outdoor lighting manager Mark Jarel to come up with the ideal lighting solutions for “Illumetric,” settling on the company’s LED T8 tube lights.

“LEDs were the natural choice for “Illumetric.” They are energy-efficient and provide even lighting,” she says. “LED T8 tube lights last over 50,000 hours, with no buzzing or flickering, no harmful UV/IR radiation, and no toxic mercury to worry about. It’s a win-win for all.”

Each sculpture is outfitted with a line-voltage photo control that allows the sculptures to operate independently of one another. The controls operate via photovoltaic sensors, which detect a drop in ambient light levels surrounding each sculpture. These sensors close the circuit, energizing the LED arrays contained within to illuminate each sculpture.

According to Mabari, the sculptures have resonated with art critics, with articles in the Los Angeles Times,Los Angeles Weekly, and Cartwheel magazine applauding them. She finds the work and the public’s response to the sculptures very rewarding.

“I am a strong advocate of public art and believe giving back to the community is very important,” Mabari says.

By Jenni Spinner, a Chicago-based freelancer and former associate editor of Public Works.