L.A.’s Original Lamppost Art

Lovers of the “Urban Light” lamppost art installation that dominates the entrance to LACMA (after six years I am still on the fence about it) might want to head over to a nondescript strip mall in East Hollywood where the possible inspiration for Chris Burden’s work has been sitting for more than 20 years.

lamppost art

Back in 1992, artist Sheila Klein fell in love with Los Angeles’ street lights.

“I think street lights are romantic,” she said back then.

Some 250 styles of street lights were in use, so Klein selected 25 of them and installed them candelabra-style in the strip mall at Santa Monica and Vermont. She called her work “Vermonica,” after the intersection.


The site was chosen in part because its stores were burned during the Rodney King riots and Sheila Klein liked the idea of building on a site of destruction.

The lamps were supposed to be a temporary installation. But one year turned into more than 20, and now it is part of the fabric of Los Angeles, just as much as its imitation, albeit more off the beaten path.