DOWNTOWN : Plaza 'Puddles' Whet Appetite for Art

Venice artist Peter Alexander wasn't interested in the wristwatches a man wanted to sell him as they stood outside a Downtown office lobby one night recently. But Alexander did want the street vendor's reaction to the series of 25 lighted glass "puddles" embedded in the pavement.

"He looked over my shoulder and said, 'What's that?' " said Alexander, who created the work as public art outside the 53-story building at Citicorp Plaza. "And he said, 'L.A. needs more of that!' "

Titled "Puddles," the work dots the brick sidewalk around the corner of Eighth and Figueroa streets. It was designed to create the impression of remnants of a passing glacier. The work is the ninth addition to the plaza's public art project.

The "puddles" created by Alexander are actually molded glass, lit from below with colored fiber-optics.

One of the puddles is inscribed with the translated words of Ikkyu Shonin, a 15th-Century Japanese poet. Shonin's words were chosen because they reflect the lighthearted nature of Alexander's work. The verse tells the story of a traveler who is "crazy as a cloud" and delights in befuddling his teachers.

The idea of the puddles "was a reaction against the lobby of the building, which was highly corporate," Alexander said. "I had an immediate reaction to do something that was obviously foolish or contrary to it. And the idea of an ice flow under L.A. is kind of absurd."

The glass ice flow is part of "Poet's Walk," a collection of public artworks that were built on the Citicorp Plaza property, a one-block area that spans eight acres.

The newest work is part of the plaza's second phase. The public art for the plaza's first phase, the Citicorp Center office tower, a retail complex and Seventh Market Place, was dedicated four years ago.

Under requirements from the city's Community Redevelopment city's Community Redevelopment Agency, new developments must include public art.

The best known of the "Poet's Walk" works is the bronze statue of an anonymous businessman whose head disappears into the granite slab of the office tower at 725 S. Figueroa St. The other artwork, all collaborations between artists and poets, are sprinkled throughout the plaza and include George Herms' assemblage of objects and James Surls' eight granite bollards with inscriptions by poet Robert Creeley.

"Most of the works are very subtle," said Kathy Lucoff, the project's arts adviser. "The idea of the work was not to knock people over in terms of being big. So the idea was about self-discovery. Some projects you might walk by and not even notice, but if you spend time there, they might appear."

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