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ART REVIEW : 'Monument to Megalopolises Past, Future' at LACE

December 18, 1987|CATHY CURTIS

After fuming on mean city streets gridlocked with traffic and burping with bass-enhanced car stereos, a viewer is likely to be entranced with the humming, splashing energies of an immense hulk of a sculpture sitting (until Dec. 27) in its own little pool at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.

The piece is Chris Burden's and Nancy Rubins' "A Monument to Megalopolises Past and Future," and it looks somewhat like what you'd get if you crossed an industrial scrap yard with one of Jean Tinguely's creations.

Built out of big barnacles of stuff (mostly aircraft parts turned inside out like abandoned shells) and working off a water-powered electrical generating system, the piece performs methodical calisthenics. Bicycle wheels mounted here and there revolve in spotlighted glory in a preordained sequence, throwing off sheets of water. There's a hum and a propeller-like whirr, and then all of a sudden the whole thing shuts down so that the loudest sound and biggest movement is a serene trickling of water.

The project brings together the complementary interests of Rubins, who recycles heaps of exhausted consumer appliances into sculptures with the silhouettes of landscape forms, and Burden, whose diverse output pokes into the assumptions of a technological society.

Entropy (the notion that matter and energy in the universe will someday subside into an inert sameness) and the complex interdependence of people living in densely populated areas are the heavy-duty themes built into the piece. Yet it is a perversely low-key creation with a benign, natural-phenomenon presence, vastly more hopeful than the abrasive reality of today's and--presumably--tomorrow's megalopolis.

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