While I was at the LA County Museum of Art this past December to see the Stanley Kubrick retrospective, I also enjoyed the experience of stumbling upon Chris Burden’s room-sized kinetic sculpture, Metropolis II – the focal points of which are 1,100 Hot Wheels cars.
Burden finished this scale cityscape, which took four years to build, in the Summer of 2011 and it was installed at LACMA that Fall. Although you can walk completely around Metropolis II from the floor of the exhibit room, you really need to climb the stairs to the catwalk-like balcony to see the action from above and fully appreciate what Burden was trying to convey. The frenetic movement of the tiny cars is hypnotizing.
In a statement at the exhibit’s opening, Burden expressed his hypothesis that, “The future of automobile transportation is that there won’t be drivers anymore.” The 1,100 customized Hot Wheels cars whirring through a city of building-block skyscrapers is a scale model of Burden’s vision for L.A.’s future: Cars that are swiftly autopiloted along pre-determined routes, moving ten times faster than they do today.
The cars are dramatically lifted eight feet in the air by a magnetized conveyor belt, then dispatched through the city on a roller coaster network of plastic roadways. The buildings are constructed with Legos and Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets and stacking slotted cards. A dozen out-of-the-box electric trains chug casually through the sculpture.
Due to the physical strain on both the sculpture and the fact that it must be physically monitored at all times to watch for “pileups,” Metropolis II runs for only one hour at a time, with a one hour break between sessions, from Friday through Sunday. The viewing schedule is below and no reservations are required:
11:30–12:30 PM; 1:30–2:30 PM; 3:30–4:30 PM; 5:30–6:30 PM
Saturdays & Sundays
10:30 am–11:30 PM; 12:30–1:30 PM; 2:30–3:30 PM; 4:30–5:30 PM
LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90036.