Last week I happened to be visiting LACMA with a photographer from New York City and we had the opportunity to preview Chris Burden’s
“Metropolis II” during its test run. Crowds of small children, parents, and museum goers looked on in fascination at the enormous structure that Chris Burden had created. “Metropolis II” is the high art version of Legoland, a site where the inner child and the culturally curious meet. Some folks may not want to dive into a conversation about the importance Jeff Koons and the sterile Hoover vacuum cleaners or Andy Warhol’s Kellog boxes located above in BCAM, but “Metropolis II” proves a neutral ground. An engineer stood in the middle of the gigantic erector set as thousands of hot rod Hot Wheels whizzed by on a narrow plastic lined track that wove up, down, and around slow paced train sets. The installation is so large it’s hard to know where to look or aim your camera first- in the middle of the structure a conveyor belt loads the cars that have arrived at the bottom of the track and charges them to drive at high speeds once they reach the top. The kinetic frenzy is reminiscent of the maddening motor obsessed world outside the of the museum walls, and the urban structure made to sort-of represent capitals of major cities is made from crude wood pieces similar to Jenga blocks. It was rather surreal listening to the grinding of metal cars and getting lost in an honest “how did he do that?” moment. In light of his earlier body of work like “Shoot” or the 30 second commercial “Through the Night Softly,” “Metropolis II” seems an endeavor made in the same manner as “Urban Light.” A piece for the masses in Los Angeles to gather around, look for, talk about, and smile. In the case of “Metropolis II” I hesitate to assign any serious social commentary or critical observation because I think feel that the piece proves that art can be fun for fun’s sake.