Rodin Hood and the Lamppost Forest

It’s fair to say that my enthusiasm for art museums is kept pretty much under control. In general, I try to follow a policy of Five Paintings and Out. Because I cannot look at more than a few paintings without losing my ability to focus. If the Five Paintings rule cannot be deployed, then at a minimum I am resolved to never go to an art museum without an exit strategy.

Bust of Auguste Rodin by one of his students near the LACMA Scupture Garden.

Even so, I made a good faith effort to work up some enthusiasm for our visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They had a number of exhibits that sounded genuinely interesting. And I felt an obligation to be positive about this outing since I was being indulged on the parks and gardens front.

However, circumstances conspired to have the air leak slowly out of my art appreciation balloon. This is apt to happen when you visit a really popular place in a really big city.

First off, it took a good 45 minutes to drive to the museum. Once we got there, it took another 45 minutes to find parking. And after we parked, there was an hour wait to buy tickets. By the time the tickets were purchased,we were a collection grumpy would-be art appreciators.

As a result, while we spent two and a half hours getting to LACMA, we spent only about an hour inside. Not that there wasn’t stuff worth seeing – there was.

“Urban Light”, a sculpture consisting of 202 lampposts.

But the expedition was redeemed by the outdoor exhibits. It’s easier to enjoy art outdoors, for some reason. Just stepping back outside gave me a second wind and put me in a more positive frame of mind. Also, and I have no explanation for this, but I just find sculpture easier to look at than paintings.


This is especially true when you can wander around and through the sculpture, as with the forest of lampposts called “Urban Light”, found outside the museum entrance. A great place for kids to play hide and seek in. All of the 202 lampposts were once working street lights, and there was a surprising variety in the details.

Statue of Balzac at the entrance to the sculpture garden.

Not far away is the Cantor Sculpture Garden, which is probably known best for its collection of works by Rodin. Though I’m not so sure if Balzac would approve of palm trees.


The sculpture garden is a small space, combining trees and grass in what is almost but not quite a checkerboard effect. This is the view from the top of the stairs at the back of the garden.


Another Rodin.


Here’s a view of the stairs leading to a plaza surrounded by LACMA buildings. It was late afternoon at this point, and the light was not the best.


One of the busts on the stairway. Not very cheerful, is he?


The plantings caught the late afternoon light.

DSC_0448The sun had set by the time we were done wandering around outside, and “Urban Light” was illuminating the darkness.

Do you have a preference for outdoor or indoor art?

53 Comments on “Rodin Hood and the Lamppost Forest

  1. 45 minutes to park? Wow. Was the parking structure full? I loved those lampposts, and all the landscaping, back when we visited last (2009 I think, time flies!). Andrew wanted to visit the tar pits this time, since he’s never been, but we ended up spending too much time on the UCLA campus. Have you guys been to the tar pits?

    • Yes, the parking structure was full, though we were able to get in. We crept round and round searching for people with the look of someone heading home, then raced unsuccessfully to position ourselves to take their parking spot as they left. After 20 minutes of that, we left the garage (at least we didn’t have to pay).

  2. Sounds stressful for you but funny for us to read your post Jason, I nearly always need to read the blurb to appreciate what I’m looking at either indoors or outdoors but sometimes pieces such as the Rodin in your post are so beautiful they have me searching for more.

  3. I would probably agree with you that outside is easier to relate to. I’m still to be convinced about certain ‘modern’ art – are lamp posts art? They are interesting and beautiful but art? but who am I to question this? I have to admit I hated the image of the trees with the grass, the grass must be replaced every other week to look like that under trees; also gives people (non gardeners the impression that it is possible to have beautiful grass under trees. Plus the growing spaces around the trees are far to small to be 1. useful or 2. harmonious. But I did enjoy your post because it made me smile while I drank my morning espresso. thank you

    • Your reaction to the trees and grass is interesting. My own reaction to the grass was that it was a sort of nondescript frame for the sculpture, but of course you’re right about the maintenance implications. As to your question about lampposts being art – honestly, I have no idea. But they were fun.

  4. I loved the Rodin sculpture garden and the lampposts – but worried about everything being stolen or damaged outside. So I guess I like my art (safe) indoors! I enjoy indoor galleries – and now that we are in the middle of nowhere I miss them.

    • The Rodin sculptures are surrounded by a tall iron fencing that is locked up at night. Also, they are rather large and heavy for stealing, though I supposed some determined thieves could find a way.

  5. Mmm, yes, driving somewhere you don’t really want to go, then queuing for ages is not ideal. But I have to say I generally love visiting art galleries, depending on what’s on show. The most exciting and inspiring exhibition I’ve seen was David Hockney at the RA, London in 2011 – I spent a good long while gazing at his trees. But there is art that leaves me cold, that I just don’t get. In the eye of the beholder and all that. I love the lampposts lit up.

  6. Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, which features 1500 works of American figurative sculpture (indoors and out), is one of the most remarkable museums I know and I enjoy a visit nearly every year during our family beach week. By and large, however, I prefer paintings. Your “five paintings and out” policy is actually a good one. When traveling, I often take in a museum to examine just a handful of paintings by a particular artist or within a certain genre, such as impressionism. Anyone who has ever trudged through the Vatican Museums with the hordes knows how mind numbing too much art can be.

  7. I like art. I can say I enjoy art outside when it isn’t above 70 degrees or below 32degrees. I could be stuck inside for a long time if there is something of interest on display. I rarely have the opportunity to explore a museum.

  8. Too bad, this doesn’t sound like the best way to enjoy LACMA. We’ve had better luck there, once even getting to see a replica of designers Charles and Ray Eames’ living room. And outside next door, the La Brea Tar Pits were cool.

  9. That forest of lampposts is very impressive. Wow! My tolerance for art is higher than yours, but I understand your point. Intense looking is wearing—but very worthwhile nonetheless. I’m good for about an hour. As for sculpture vs. painting, for me it depends on the sculpture or the painting 😉

  10. Thanks for the tour. I’m with you on museums, even though I used to study art history. It’s almost always better to be outside. I quit going to the Art Institute of Chicago after being a member for several years because I couldn’t handle the crowded ticketed exhibits.

    • I haven’t been to a ticketed exhibit there for many years for the same reason. Plus it’s usually more art than I can appreciate at one time.

  11. R is a museum rat, so when we travel it’s a negotiation to split time between gardens and art shows. I agree that over-saturation sets in (maybe an hour or so before the headache threatens) in a museum setting. It’s nice to be members of our local museum so that we can go often for smaller doses and he can go alone as often as he likes.

  12. I HAVE to say I like outdoor art, since that’s what I make, sculptures and installations for outdoor spaces. The lamp post installations was fun, and I’m a firm believer in enjoying art rather than taking it so seriously that all the pleasure is sucked away. Art doesn’t have to be a chore and art outdoors can add enormously to a garden in many different ways — it can add height, colour, texture; act as a focal point; add meaning and substance to an outdoor space. It can add pleasure and excitement, stimulate thought, enhance a calm and restful environment.. I could go on and on! Art outdoors can do it all.

    • It certainly does a great deal at your place. But now I’m thinking about writing a post about the garden installations at Reford, to which I had mixed reactions. I hope you won’t be offended.

  13. Long drives, difficulty parking and waiting for tickets would have sapped me of all enthusiasm too, but it seems that all was well in the end. Crickey, that bust is a little gloomy for sure! I love the lampposts all lit up, and I like sculpture better outdoors, I like everything better outdoors!xxx

  14. I must admit I’m not a big art museum fan, but I spent several hours at the Netherlands national museum, The Rijksmuseum, and enjoyed every moment of it. Indoor or outdoor – I guess I’d choose outdoor. 🙂

    • I’ve been to some wonderful art museums, I bet the Rijksuseum is fantastic. But no matter how great they are, I get worn out pretty fast.

  15. I liked the Urban Lights at night, and the evening light on the gardens and statures are great. I remember gardens more than art…especially if the Gallery is large and time is short!

  16. I love Rodin sculptures, most of the are made from white marble and here you shared ones from bronze – aren’t they? I love seeing art gallery in open air.

  17. The lampposts are a nice idea, and love the evening light on those plants on the steps. I’m an outdoor person too usually, as most museums and art galleries seem to use only artificial light or the lighting is dimmed. I get a bit claustrophobic!

  18. I gravitate towards places with art, whether museums or sculpture gardens, but have been with people who speed through such places hoping to get to lunch. I like to take my time especially if in the presence of great masterpieces. It was the main reason I loved Austria, important art everywhere. It is difficult being an art lover but important to me to compromise with those not having the appreciation. It looks like a nice visit for you though.

  19. Some very enticing photos there, especially in the warm evening light. Good to see those lampposts lit up too. They really come into their own then and I’d enjoy meandering between them.

  20. I utterly sympathize with the “45 minutes to park” scenario, because I live in a suburb of NY City, where only the foolish (like myself) choose to travel by car rather than take the train! Thanks so much for reassuring me that in the main, when in a museum I too prefer sculpture to paintings in most cases (except for anything by Holbein, whose work I adore) so apparantly I’m not alone. 🙂

    • I remember growing up on Long Island – driving to Manhattan was a MAJOR production. The train was a little easier, but had its own challenges.

      • I didn’t know that you were a LI’er! 🙂 By the way, the LIRR still has those same challenges – the only difference is the cost of a ticket. A one-way peak from Babylon to Penn Station is now $15; a monthly is $338.

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