Urban Light Public Art LA

Where to Find the Best Public Art in LA

When you’re casually walking around Los Angeles, California, you might notice some stunning pieces of artwork. You can find public artwork almost anywhere, including on metro stations or utility boxes lining the sidewalk. If you’re on the prowl for some beautiful pieces of public art, make sure you check out these pieces.

“Urban Light”

Urban Light Public Art
Image via Flickr by ketrin1407

Head outside to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) at 5905 Wilshire Blvd. to view Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” sculpture. It features 202 restored cast-iron street lamps dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. Sixteen different streetlight models are in the sculpture, many of which were commissioned for specific streets and neighborhoods.

Burden began collecting the lamps in December 2000 without any sort of design in mind and continued to collect the lamps for several years. In 2003, he discussed installing the lamps at New York’s Gagosian Gallery, but the gallery thought the cost was prohibitive. He sent 14 lamps to an exhibition in London but wanted to keep as much of his collection together as possible so he invited purchasers to view the lamps outside his studio. The new director of the LACMA believed it would be perfect at the musuem, so Burden installed the sculpture in 2008.


Located in the Los Angeles Mall Civic Center complex at Temple and Main Streets in downtown Los Angeles, “Triforium” is a 60-foot-tall sculpture created by Joseph Young. If you think its height is mesmerizing, the commissioned sculpture weighs a staggering 60 tons. The mall’s architect Robert Stockwell wanted a sculpture outside the mall, and Young’s initial design involved a kinetic sculpture, which would use motion sensors to detect the motions of passersby and turn them into sound and light displays. He also hoped to use laser beams to project light into space.

As you can imagine, budgetary restrictions caused several amendments to the design, which had an initial cost of almost $1 million. The redesigned sculpture was dedicated in 1975 and features 1,494 Venetian glass prisms. It received a refurbishment in 2006 after decades of inoperation.

“Los Angeles Opens Its Heart of Compassion”

Located in the heart of Koreatown at the busy intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, “Los Angeles Opens Its Heart of Compassion” is a suspended 15-foot-tall, 10-foot-wide sculpture created by Cliff Garten. It has abstract lotus flower shapes constructed out of aluminum and illuminated with white lights. The sculpture covers the second through sixth floors of a parking structure that sits between the two towers at The Vermont, which is a retail and residential building. The lotus flower represents creation and reproduction, which are common themes found in the Koreatown neighborhood.

“Almost Invisible Boxes”

Adjacent to Town Plaza at 9540 Culver Blvd. in downtown Culver City, the “Almost Invisible Boxes” are the work of artist Joshua Callaghan. Don’t be embarrassed if you accidentally walk into one of these nine crafty pieces as they’re meant to blend into the surroundings. Each utility box is wrapped in vinyl that features images of the surrounding landscape. As a result, you become an active participant in these works of art. Callaghan installed his artwork in 2004, and each one varies in dimension, but the largest is more than 80 feet tall and 72 feet wide.


Check out the University of Southern California’s Fisher Museum of Art to experience “Blacklist” by Jenny Holzer. In 1999, the university’s faculty from the Filmic Writing Program commissioned the artwork, which consists of 10 stone benches engraved with quotes from members of the Hollywood Ten filmmakers. These filmmakers were blacklisted for refusing to cooperate in 1947 with the House Un-American Activities Committee involving allegations of Communism.


Consisting of four stories of neon and argon tubes around the California Department of Transportation District 7’s outdoor lobby at 100 S. Main St., “Motordom” is the work of Keith Sonnier. This permanent installation is said to be one of the largest public art pieces in the city. Sonnier programmed the work to illuminate different sequences that make the blue and red lights appear to move all around the building’s courtyard.

“America Tropical”

When artist David Alfaro Siqueiros was expelled from Mexico in 1932 due to radical political militancy, he ventured to Los Angeles, where he spent six months. While there, he completed three murals with “America Tropical” the most significant. This mural, which is 80-by-18-feet is on the second-story exterior wall of the Italian Hall on Olvera Street. It’s the oldest existing mural in the city and the only national mural created by Siqueiros that remains in its original location.

The mural displayed Siquerios’ belief about U.S. imperialism, with a Mexican Indian crucified on a double cross alongside an American eagle. A Mayan pyramid sits in the background, while a Peruvian peasant and Mexican farmer sit, ready to defend their land. Siequeios worked primarily in the evening with the assistance of 20 artists to complete the mural. After using a projector to outline the design, he used an airbrush to finish it. The mural was whitewashed for several decades, and it took the Getty Conservation Institute to restore it and open it to the public in 2012.


Walk over to the historic Columbia Square compound along Sunset Boulevard to view “Psychogeographies” by artist Dustin Yellen. The Brooklyn-based artist created the permanent outdoor exhibition that consists of six sculptures featuring glass encasements holding 3D collages made out of paper scraps and refuse that resemble people. Valued at $1.5 million, the sculptures are the result of Yellen pouring resin over collages and noticing optical quality. Yellen, who calls Los Angeles his hometown, made 3D collages of objects in layers of resin and eventually switched over to glass.

With so many pieces of artwork found in Los Angeles, Capistrano Volkswagen probably only highlighted a few of the best pieces. Let us know if we missed any must-see art installations. If we did, please contact us so we can add it to our list. We want everyone to have the chance to view artwork created by talented artists.