Photographing The Sculptures of Los Angeles

I’ve discussed photographing sculptures as a form of architectural photography in the past. It really is one of my favorite subjects and there are some great ones out there. Today, we’ll focus on some of Los Angeles’s public artwork.

First up, Double Ascension by Herbert Bayer. It was one of the first public art pieces commissioned as part of the redevelopment of downtown and is located in a fountain at City National Plaza at 515 South Flower Street. Its orange-red, which resembles Calder Red, is a vibrant contrast to the surrounding darker granite buildings and fountain, which is great for some reflections. Whether you shoot a bit wider for context or focus on the details, it’s a fun one!

double ascension, herbert bayer, los angeles double ascension, herbert bayer, los angeles

Nearby is my favorite sculpture downtown, Ulysses, by Alexander Liberman located at 400 South Hope Street. Again, this sculpture offers a nice contrast to its surroundings. A white swirly mix of ovals, circles, ellipses and helical shaped ribbons contrasts with the grid-like, dark buildings nearby. Liberman has been said “more is more”, quite the contrast to the Mies van der Rohe-like buildings in the area and his stance that “less is more”. While I tend to be on the side of Mies, I love the idea of taking something that is “more” and simplifying it. Hopefully not offensive or disrespectful to Liberman’s vision.

First, you see the contrast in the two styles…swirly/curvy vs. rigid grids.

alexander liberman, ulysses, los angeles

Now, to further simplify.

alexander liberman, ulysses, los angeles

And, taking liberty with white balance to reimagine it. You can see how this is done in this post, if you’d like.

Diagonally across the street from here is the Bank of Ameria Plaza and Alexander Calder’s Four Arches. It’s nearly impossible to get shots here, I’ve never been kicked out of a space so quickly. So shoot wide from the public sidewalk (they’ll still yell at you) or get a telephoto out and zoom in from a distance. If you go wider, having people in the shots adds a great sense of scale to this massive sculpture.

four arches, alexander calder four arches, alexander calder

Just across the street is Gidon Graetz’s Mind, Body, and Spirit which is outside of the YMCA and is meant to represent their mission. The base is bronze and the curved part stainless steel, which can offer some warped reflections of the surrounding high rises.

Just around the corner, and across from the Westin Bonaventure, is Mark DiSuvero’s Shoshone. It’s red but when I last shot it, it was fading pretty badly. So, I think I prefer it in black & white.

A quick stop at the backside of the Walt Disney Concert Hall is a fountain shaped from fragments of Royal Blue Delft porcelain vases and tiles. When Gehry designed the concert hall he was asked to create something to pay tribute to Lillian Disney (wife of Walt Disney). So he combined her love of Delft porcelain and her favorite flower, titling the piece A Rose for Lilly. The warm light and the cool blues and whites make for a nice contrast.

A Rose for Lilly, frank gehry, los angeles

Heading over the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), and in the Ahmanson Building atrium, is Tony Smith’s Smoke. It’s this massive, 24-foot tall piece made of aluminum and painted black. And is his largest piece conceived for an indoor space.

He’s said the sculpture reflects his lifelong exploration of patterns found in organic life and represents a culmination of his work in architecture, painting, drawing, and sculpture. Photographically, you can go super wide from underneath or from the second floor…

tony smith, somke, lacma, los angeles

Or use a telephoto for mid-range to abstract shots.

tony smith, somke, lacma, los angeles

tony smith, somke, lacma, los angeles tony smith, somke, lacma, los angeles

The angles and geometry of this piece make for some interesting abstracts and play with light. Because it’s indoors and relatively dark, a high ISO along with shallow depth of field are needed to have sharp photos.

A little bonus location just outside of Los Angeles is Richard Serra’s Connector located in the plaza of the Orange County Performing Arts Center. His signature burnt steel is on full display in this 66-foot tall sculpture you can walk through. The base is 20 feet in diameter, narrowing to a 4-foot opening to the sky.

I find his work difficult to photograph but here are a couple of look-up perspectives. The burnt orange color plays well off a vivid blue sky and the leading lines from inside are one way to compose a shot of this massive piece. Feels a bit portal-like.

This list is by no means comprehensive, just some of my favorites I’ve managed to photograph. Are there any other LA sculptures you’d recommend?



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