When the International Jewelry Center opened on the east side of Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles in 1982, the building’s architecture (by firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill) was panned as “inhospitable” and “an overwhelming loser.”
But the 270-foot long, computer-triggered, neon sculpture commissioned to adorn the front of the building got a rave: “All that saves the building from almost total offensiveness is a remarkably beautiful and exciting sculpture by Michael Hayden,” proclaimed John Dreyfuss in the LA Times. “As exhilarating as fireworks on the Fourth of July,” declared Michael Webb in the LA Weekly.
The battleship of a building is still present, but the brightly colored, ever-changing artwork has been dark for almost seven years, after falling prey to the elements that, ironically, also help activate it. Last week, Hayden came to town from his home-base in Santa Rosa to flip the switch on the reincarnation of his 33-year old work titled “Generators of the Cylinder.”
A crowd gathered as the artist explained the complex mathematics behind it. Infrared sensors detect foot traffic and interact with a computer housed in the building’s parking garage to trigger holographically etched grating after which he said: “I wanted an upside down sculpture that people could see themselves in and,” he added, “that you didn’t have to be a card carrying member of an art gallery to see it.”
As downtown continues to transform, this rehabbed piece of public art is a welcome addition to the cityscape.
550 Hill Street, DTLA, Generators of the Cylinder is publicly accessible 24-7