The holiday pot-luck part of the season has descended upon the office, so as a way of avoiding the overeating they provoke (I know my weaknesses), I go walking instead. According to my iPhone pedometer, I’m a couple thousand steps away when I find myself at the LA Public Library’s Central location — specifically, on the Flower St. side of the building, before a sculptural installation titled ‘Spine’, by Jud Fine. Referencing both the backbones of books, and the bony support columns of humans and animals, this installation provides a structured entry to the stored knowledge contained in the brain/library. Like a book, ‘Spine’s’ pools separates ‘pages’, or steps, with information that can be read; each step’s riser features writings in various languages, both ancient and contemporary, and would require serious study to take in fully. In the artist’s words the central pools “offer a kind of plot structure … Water circulates through the pools like the continuous narrative flow of time.” … Conceptually, he intends for the pools to provide a connection between the new (contemporary) and old (archaic) worlds. The installation, as you can tell, is thoughtful and deeply layered, and a potluck-avoidance jaunt isn’t time enough to contemplate it all. Rather, I take the opportunity to enjoy the pools and the sculptural elements they contain. Let’s begin at street level:
Moving up from the street, a semi-circular basin with the word BRIGHT carved into the wall above it, appears to be made of bronze and has a map of the world deeply etched into it. Water trickles out of the mouth of a prehistoric reptile and into the basin. In the rectangular pool behind it a massive green stone rests solidly, while in the water a skeletal creature, Labyrinthodont — one of the first amphibians — crawls languidly forward, oblivious to his extinction.
The central pool, LUCID, also features a fountain element, this one a bowl made of letters through which water drips into another basin. Carved with texts related to inscriptions on the adjacent steps, the words on the basin represent the growth of print. In the pool, a contemporary California newt rises out of the water in the thrall of an amphibious epiphany.
Above CLEAR, the final pool features a woman’s head in stainless steel. Water cascades over the head and falls into a basin embellished with symbols that represent ‘woman’ in diverse cultures. A large red rock in the pool serves as launching pad for a Peregrine falcon in the process of taking flight toward Flower Street. A downtown resident until recently deemed dangerously close to extinction, the Peregrine falcon’s movement here is ambiguous: is it flying off to its future, or its end.
Artist Fine, in an interview summed up ‘Spine’: “Fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are all classified together due to the commonality of the spine. Structurally, the spine also refers to the anatomy of the book. A book is identified by the name running down its spine. The spine separates the front from the back, and at the same time hinges them together. It is the central nervous system of the book.” To read more about ‘Spine’ click here. The central library features many amazing examples of public art, both indoors and out, and the building and grounds are interesting in and of themselves. I really need to find more time to visit and take them in. To learn more about the library, visit their website here.