Los Angeles Metro's art programming is vast and multi-faceted, including everything from performances to public art works. Most recently, Metro connected with local artist Karen Hochman Brown, who contributed "Aloe and Peacock Ride the Rails," a piece that draws inspiration from L.A. County Arboretum to merge symbols of nature and transit, to Metro's "Through the Eyes of Artists" poster series. Hochman Brown's work will be on view on buses and trains through July 1.
Other pieces in Metro's collection are more permanent. Below, we take a look at some of the intriguing installations that pop up on train platforms, at bus stops and inside Metro stations.
Union Station (Red, Purple, Gold)
If you're heading down the center corridor at Union Station, chances are strong that you're rushing to catch the Gold Line, or maybe a Metrolink or Amtrak train. You might not have time to stop and take in the art. But if you aren't in a hurry, stick around and take a look. The passageway that connects Union Station East and West is like a gallery, displaying photographic artwork in large lightboxes. Currently on view is Journeys: L.A. Communities through the Eyes of Artists featuring "Inglewood" (2012) by Wakana Kimura, "Leimert Park" (2004) by Sam Pace and more.
Civic Center/Grand Park Station (Red, Purple) - "I Dreamed I Could Fly"
I Dreamed I Could Fly (1999) by Jonathan Borofsky is a little creepy. It's a set of six sculptures of humans that hang high above the subway platform. The concept is based on Borofsky's dreams of flying - all of the figures are made to look like him - but if you didn't know that, they appear to just be barefoot humans falling from the ceiling. That can be especially disturbing when you don't expect to see them after stepping off the train.
Wilshire/Western (Purple) - "The Beppins"
Metro's art collection includes functional pieces as well. Pae White created just that with The Beppins (2003) by Pae White. Located on the corner of Wilshire and Western, above the Purple Line's current final stop, these hulking sculptures double as seats. Hang out here while you're waiting for your connection from subway to bus.
Vermont/Sunset (Red) - "Ecliptic/Illume"
Vermont/Sunset is the Red Line station closest to the Griffith Observatory, so it was fitting that artist Michael Davis and Diedrich Architects collaborated on Ecliptic/Illume (1999), an installation that subtly brings in space age influences. You'll see the astronomical influences in the floor design, as well the constellation map-inspired art that circles the escalator. Other elements, like the elevator, bear designs that evoke rocket ships and space stations.
Hollywood/Western (Red) - "Untitled"
Discoveries have been made while building L.A.'s Metro system, amongst them the remains of an American Mastodon and an extinct American Bison. At the Hollywood/Western station, artist May Sun and architect Escudero Fribourg paid tribute to both the prehistoric inhabitants of Los Angeles as well as its more recent human residents with "Untitled" (1999) - pieces that bring together bits of history that date back millennia.
Hollywood/Vine (Red) - "Hooray for Hollywood"
Gilbert "Magu" Lujan was a renowned artist of the late 20th and early 21st century, who first came to prominence during the Chicano Movement era as part of Los Four. Lujan packs a lot of details into the illustrated tiles of "Hooray for Hollywood" (1999) that adorn the station. Taken in as a whole, they could read as a big, open-ended story of Hollywood. Sadly, Lujan died in 2011, but the station stands as a testament to his work and deep ties to the city.
North Hollywood (Red, Orange) - "Kaleidoscope Dreams"
With a theme and design by artist James Doolin and architect Tanzmann Associates, the Red Line's North Hollywood terminus displays images on tile that swirl and distort as if seen through a kaleidoscope. Featuring multiple tile murals that were painted by Anne Marie Karlsen, Kaleidoscope Dreams (2000) incorporates many different facets of the San Fernando Valley from the San Fernando Mission to classic cars. Some of the pieces are visible on both the top level of the station and on the subway platform.
San Pedro St. (Blue) - "Hope, Dream, Path, Focus, Belief"
Made in 1993, Sandra Rowe's "Hope, Dream, Path, Focus, Belief" installation for the Blue Line's San Pedro Street station is a bit of a trip back in time. Her work is really a two-part project. There are multiple parts to this installation, including portraits of locals made in stainless steel that appear above the platform. The most visible piece, though, is the column art that incorporates art made by students at San Pedro Street Elementary School. The artwork was etched in bronze, keeping their youthful creativity alive for passersby to see even now that those young artists are well into adulthood.
Redondo Beach (Green) - "Museum of Space Information"
"Museum of Space Information" (1995) by Carl Cheng and Escudero-Fribourg Architects at the Green Line's Redondo Beach station brings together space and sea. Reflect both the nearby Pacific Ocean and the South Bay's aerospace history, the theme extends throughout the design elements of the station, from the staircase to the platform. It's also a very detailed station. You'll want to check out everything from the tiles to the benches while you're waiting for your train.
Laurel Canyon (Orange) - "Lucky California"
At the Orange Line's Laurel Canyon stop, the vibe of Lucky California (2005) is new contemporary. Artist Phung Huynh, who is also an associate art professor at nearby Valley College, merges Chinese art influences and U.S. pop culture in her work. Here, Chinese cherubs are the main characters in these playful pieces that also include oranges - perhaps a nod to the Valley's agricultural days - and poppies. Huynh's work extends to the platform: look down before boarding the bus and you may see more of Lucky California.
Pico/Aliso (Gold) - "About Place About Face"
Rob Neilson's "About Place About Face" (2009) is nearly hidden under the canopies that lend shade to the outdoor station. Look up once you exit the train and you'll catch a glimpse of the large, mask-like cast iron sculptures. Like much of the Metro's station art, Neilson's piece brings the local community into the work. The 27 models are people of all ages with ties to the neighborhood.
Lincoln/Cypress (Gold) - "Water Street: River of Dreams"
The Lincoln/Cypress station's proximity to the L.A. River inspired Water Street: River of Dreams, one of the most beautiful installations in Metro's art collection. Created in 2003, Cheri Gaulke's installation pays homage to both local nature and the history of the native Tongva people. Running down the middle of the entrance to the station, near the parking lot, rock-lined slopes give the appearance of a waterfall. On the flat surface in between the slopes, blue pebbles are arranged in curves that resemble the flow of a river. At the top is a statue of a woman pouring water. On the opposite train platform are quotes and legend related to the river.
Palms (Expo) - "Artist Educators"
Renowned for her portraiture, Shizu Saldamando documents Los Angeles through its inhabitants. She captures non-famous locals at work and play in stunning detail. For Artist Educators (2016) at the Expo Line's Palms station, the L.A.-based artist contributed several portraits drawn in pencil on wood, with washi paper adding a dose of patterned color while also reflecting both the Japanese American history of the neighborhood as well as Saldamando's own heritage.
26th St./Bergamot Station (Expo) - "Local Color"
Located near Santa Monica's Bergamot art center, Constance Mallinson's Local Color (2016) installation greets visitors with bright hues reflecting the details of the neighborhood that one might otherwise miss. Mallinson is known in part for her paintings that document objects she finds on walks. Here, the artist gathered inspiration locally that resulted in scenes like a flurry of flowers falling over buildings and small toys and other discarded items blowing along the coast.
El Monte (Silver) - "El Monte Legion Stadium Nocturne"
During its lifetime, El Monte Legion Stadium was used for a variety of different events, but it's best known as an early home for rock 'n' roll in greater Los Angeles. Touring artists and locals played El Monte to crowds of teens hungry for the new sounds brought to them by radio DJs like Art Laboe. The stadium was demolished in 1974, but its memory lives on inside El Monte's bus station, where artist Vincent Ramos pays tribute to the venue with portraits of key figures in its history. You'll find El Monte Legion Stadium Nocturne (2014) in the atrium on the lower level of the station.