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With Buren breezeway, Pasadena is aflutter

One Colorado scores a well-known French artist, who creates a flag-waving installation.

August 13, 2007|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

With nothing to lose, the art programmers for One Colorado in Pasadena approached a star French conceptual artist about doing an installation in their plaza. Daniel Buren said yes, and the result, now on view, is thousands of yellow-and-white and orange-and-white triangular flags strung over the space.

The piece, Buren's first large-scale, outdoor installation in California in decades, will be accessible for free public viewing through Nov. 11. The artist said he designed the network of cable-strung nylon flags, "A Colored Square in the Sky," to mirror the "perfect-square" shape of the cobblestone-and-brick courtyard and bring a sense of unity to the surrounding buildings -- tall and short, contemporary and historic -- by connecting them.

Co-sponsored by the Pasadena-based Armory Center for the Art, One Colorado, Alliance Fran├žaise de Pasadena and the Consulate General of France, Los Angeles, Buren's creation was commissioned by Armory Public View, formed to present large-scale art installations by internationally recognized artists in One Colorado's outdoor pedestrian spaces.

Buren's decision to accept the modest commission for One Colorado was a pleasant surprise, said Jay Belloli, director of the Armory Center's gallery programs.

"This is obviously the most ambitious piece we've ever done," he said, "by probably the most famous living French artist, and it's probably the largest piece we've ever done."

Buren is best known for large-scale installations created to exist in harmony with architectural spaces and surfaces. One monumental sculpture famously occupies the sprawling courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris.

This year, he won the high-profile competition to create a unifying installation integrating the Salve bridge in Bilbao, Spain, with the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum.

Buren found One Colorado's block-long shopping and dining area intriguing, the artist said by phone from his Paris studio, because its central courtyard is "like a little island in the middle of downtown," with a European-style cafe ambience.

Buren hopes that the simple, festive installation will encourage leisurely contemplation amid the commercial hustle and bustle.

"I really hope it will work like a canopy, like a floating carpet over the heads of people and that they enjoy the luminosity of the colors against the sky," he said. "It's certainly going to play with the sun," he added, referring to the moving shadows on the pavement beneath the installation that resemble little sailboats in silhouette.

"And with a little wind, you have all these thousands of flags moving a bit like birds."

Buren, who has received images of the work daily as it is being installed to his specifications, won't see it in person until a follow-up visit in early November.

"I'm very curious and anxious to see it myself to confirm what I am saying," Buren laughed, referring to his reasoning behind the flag design. "I just hope it will work as well as I imagine."

Armory Center and One Colorado staff are doing their part. The flags were fabricated to Buren's specifications, but the signature stripes appeared to stop short when hung from white cables, so staff members, wielding high-end permanent ink pens, have painstakingly filled in the missing portion of the stripes by hand.

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