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Huge rainbow art piece aims to bring Culver City oohs and Oz

Sony Pictures Entertainment is unveiling 'Rainbow,' by Tony Tasset, in what Culver City officials see as a landmark event.

September 30, 2012|By Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times
  • Construction cranes are used to assemble "Rainbow," a huge art piece installed by Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City.
Construction cranes are used to assemble "Rainbow," a huge… (Joshua White, JWpictures.com )

What's 94 feet tall, more than 100,000 pounds and made of steel?

Well, in Culver City it's … a rainbow.

Sony Pictures Entertainment plans to unveil a towering $1.6-million rainbow art installation Monday, a massive mix of colors that the town's mayor hopes visitors and residents will come to view as a landmark for the once-sleepy suburb that's now home to a bustling restaurant and arts scene.

Rising from Sony's downtown-adjacent lot, the art piece, which last week was encased in white cloth, occupies a prominent position in low-slung Culver City when viewed from the nearby Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

"We hope it captures imaginations and people want to come and see it," Mayor Andy Weissman said. "It's going to be prominent. Not prominent like the Great Wall of China, where you can see it from space, but it will rise above the trees and landscaping and fencing" of Sony's studio.

Multimedia artist Tony Tasset's rainbow concept pays homage to one of Culver City's claims to fame: "The Wizard of Oz." The film was shot in the late 1930s on the current Sony lot when it housed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The sprawling lot dates to 1915, when it was built as Ince/Triangle Studios — two years before city founder Harry Culver's small town was incorporated.

"We are excited to bring to life something that would likely make Harry Culver and Judy Garland smile, as well as historians," said Keith Weaver, executive vice president of worldwide government affairs for Sony Pictures.

Putting together such a large work of art is no simple task.

The 8-foot-thick rainbow was constructed off site and then shipped in 40-foot sections to Sony Pictures on flatbed trailers in early September, said John Baker, partner with Carlson Arts LLC, the firm that built the piece. The final section of the arch — weighing about 60,000 pounds — was hoisted into place by two cranes a week ago. That process, including setup and installation, took 19 1/2 hours, Baker said.

"That was a long Saturday," he chuckled.

The rainbow project fulfills Sony's obligation to comply with a public arts program the city established in 1988 to enrich the quality of life, raise property values and spur economic development. To date, about 90 pieces have been commissioned, said Christine Byers, the city's public art coordinator.

"This one is not only the newest, but in terms of physical size and in terms of dollars, it is the largest," she said.

The rainbow adds to the cultural landscape of Culver City, whose restaurants, galleries and landmarks such as the Culver Hotel make the city of about 40,000 residents an attractive place to visit, live and spend money, Weissman said.

The new piece, though taller than the Hollywood sign, is easy to miss as one zips down the main drags of Washington and Culver boulevards. Still, rainbow lovers can catch a good view by standing at Sony Pictures Plaza, across the street from Sony's Madison Avenue gate.

On Monday, Sony will give rainbow-specific tours to Culver City residents who obtained tickets. After that, those wishing to get up close and personal with the installation can sign up for one of Sony's studio tours.

"Rainbow," as the piece is known, is "a great metaphor for light" — both the artificial light involved in filmmaking and the Los Angeles sunshine — Tasset said.

But the piece really isn't so hard to decipher, the Chicago-based artist said.

"The goal is quite simple," Tasset said. "To add a little color to people's lives."

andrew.khouri@latimes.com

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