Entertainment & Arts

Coronavirus can’t keep them away from ‘Urban Light’: LACMA landmark still draws fans

Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “Urban Light” installation by Chris Burden provided some levity during the coronavirus outbreak.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “Urban Light” installation by Chris Burden provided a welcome distraction during the coronavirus outbreak.
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times)

Even in these dark times, some people have found the light.

Against a shuttered and dimmed Los Angeles County Museum of Art — where, on Tuesday evening, the sidewalks of Wilshire Boulevard were largely devoid of foot traffic — the public art installation “Urban Light” was bright with activity.

About a dozen visitors scampered within the grid of glowing lampposts, striking poses and snapping social media-bound selfies. Toddlers chased one another, squealing; couples embraced beneath an aqua sky at dusk.

Camila Rios, 15, poses at LACMA’s “Urban Light.”
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times)

Camila Rios, 15, performed a contemporary dance routine that her father, Carlos Rios, recorded on his phone while her mother beamed. The family lives in downtown L.A., and during this time of social distancing, Camila planned to post the dance video on her YouTube channel to uplift her friends and others. Wearing shorts and an open midriff top with white fringe, she swung her hips and swirled her arms overhead, ending the number kneeling on the concrete with the late Chris Burden’s artwork rising behind her.

“Dance is my passion, she said. “Most of my friends, they’re all at home. I just wanna make people happy.”

Cecilia Chen, left, and Chris Yang.
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times)

Cecilia Chen, from Taiwan, was visiting a local, Chris Yang. It was her first time in L.A..


“I saw it on Instagram,” Chen said of “Urban Light,” which has long been a social media star and was among her must-see L.A. destinations.

“She came from so far away and we don’t want her to miss this,” said Yang, who lives in Encino.

Chen and Yang don’t see sightseeing amid the coronavirus outbreak as all that risky. “We’re being careful, keeping distance, washing our hands. We’re not too worried,” Yang said.

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Silemyr Valle, left, and Lawrence Miranda.
(Deborah Vankin / Los Angeles Times)

Searching for a distraction during these unprecedented times, Lawrence Miranda, 24, and Silemyr Valle, 20, made a day trip from Victorville to LACMA.

“It’s just a great place to take pictures, to be honest,” Miranda said.

“And it’s beautiful, it gets your mind off of things,” Valle added.

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Photographer Peter Buschmann’s “levitation photography.”
(Peter Buschmann)

Peter Buschmann, a 56-year-old Beverly Hills photographer, was making what he called “social distancing art.” With his Canon EOS-1D X Mark II in hand, he was experimenting with a technique that uses Photoshop to blend layers of pictures, so that multiple images of himself posing with “Urban Light” — all roughly 6 feet apart — appear in the final shot.

“So I’m practicing social distancing with myself!” he said.

And yet others had simply stumbled onto the lively “Urban Light” scene while out for a stroll.

Ruth Acosta, 30, was on an unusually languid walk with her husband and their dog, Sebastian, and was pleasantly surprised to find a pocket of levity outside the museum.

“The sun was setting as we were walking through the La Brea Tar Pits,” Acosta said. “Suddenly: People were laughing. It was like the first sign of fun we’d seen out on our walk.”

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