More Joy – RAINBOWS: Best loved, least used #publicart

Rainbow Arch by Tony Tasset, Sony Studios, Culver City, CA, 2012

Rainbow Arch by Tony Tasset, Sony Studios, Culver City, CA, 2012

An actual rainbow generates a smile in me every time.  They are just suddenly THERE.  The feeling is like seeing a fish jump or the landing of a bird on your window sill.  A quick momentary gift.  My attention heightens and nothing else matters around me.  EXCEPT to share the pleasure with anyone else in space.  LOOK – I yell or whisper.  We jump a little.

Yet when the actual event, becomes a static image as in a child’s coloring of the rainbow, the simple joy is not repeated in my soul.  Here is the danger of the rainbow sculpture.  The permanence ends the pleasure – as might be happening in Rainbow Arch by Tony Tasset, Sony Studios, Culver City, CA, 2012.  (The “might” is for not having seen it person.)  This is a dilemma for public art when an artist attempts to capture the spirit of something temporary in a symbol.    It relies on the memory of the pleasure, not pleasure itself.

The best public art cannot remain only symbolic, but must become its own experience in the present.  Private art can always be only “present.”   Public art as implemented since the 1990s (if not earlier) has been struggling with the job of “meaning”.  A direct link is mandated between public words and the public art.   In the age of civic branding, we cannot break the link.

Below are a few more examples of rainbows.

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 sculpture is 94 feet tall, eight feet wide, 188 feet wide.  The project’s total budget was $1,536,516, more than fulfilling Sony’s $614,000 public art requirement.

Dick Elliott, Circle Of Light, Yakima Sun Dome,Yakima, WA, USA 1992

Dick Elliott, Circle Of Light, Yakima Sun Dome,Yakima, WA, USA 1992

Circle Of Light by Dick Elliott is a reflector mural glued directly to the Yakima Sun Dome, a multi-purpose facility. There is a 5’4″ wall, broken into 24 facets, encircling the dome. Each facet has its own unique design. The Yakima tribe invited me to study cornhusk baskets in their museum in order to include reference to their designs in the artwork. The baskets became inspirations for six facets. The completed piece is 5’4″x 880’ and is composed of 48,480 three-inch reflectors.   Sponsored by Washington State Art In Public Places & Yakima County, 1992.

 Olafur Eliasson, Your Rainbow Panorama, ARoS, Aarhus, Denmark, 2011

Olafur Eliasson, Your Rainbow Panorama, ARoS, Aarhus, Denmark, 2011

Your Rainbow Panorama by danish artist Olafur Eliasson, 2011.  The rooftop circular, large glass walkway is set atop the ARoS århus kunstmuseum and measures 52 metres in diameter.  The colored glass forms in the color spectrum.


Michael Jones McKean, The Rainbow, 2012

Michael Jones McKean, The Rainbow, 2012

Michael Jones Mckean, The Rainbow, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, Nebraska, USA, 2012.
June 21st, 2012 until September 15th, 2012
Twice a Day for 15 Minutes

Experimentation for the creation of this public artwork began in 2002.  After partnering with Nebraska water differentiation and water management company lindsay corporation‘s mechanical engineers and scientists, the artist found that the large-scale work would be best powered by an entirely integrated system. This method is comprised of solar panels, a commercial irrigation system and a rainwater collection system conceived of by McKean and the company’s rainwater and harvesting experts. approximately 63,000 gallons of water are filtered down to six holding bins with a volume of 10,500 gallons on the ground floor from roof-top gutters. McKean’s Bemis Center commissioned installation is visible from a distance of 1,000 feet as nine fountain nozzles spray a light mist of rainwater into the air powered by 60HP pressurized jet pumps.

More Images

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. says

    I worked on “Rainbow” by Tony Tasset as the art consultant and would like to add some thoughts to the discussion. Tasser’s work falls into a pop idiom with references to well-known sources, in this case it is the rainbow as a cliche of happiness and joy and as an icon of a revered motion picture. More expansively the sculpture, itself a mesmerizing and gorgeous object, exquisitely fashioned by Peter Carlson, who has created many of Ellsworth Kelly’s and Jeff Koon’s pristine and perfectly rendered sculptures, references motion pictures, the mythic industry of Los Angeles. and one based on alchemy that transforms light into stable images on film. Tasset’s “Rainbow” is aluminum and steel but it references an ephemeral phenomena that finally places it into the conversation about the Light and Space art of Los Angeles, wherein James Turrell and Robert Irwin among others, used the physical properties of light as the very matter and subject of their art. Tasset’s marvelously joyful work speaks on multiple levels allowing access to the general public and deeper satisfaction to an art audiences interested in its more complex points of departure.

  2. says

    The context in which Tasset’s Rainbow is set would seem to negate Weiss’s complaint. Weiss is struck, as are we all, by the appearance of an actual rainbow in nature. It’s glorious, unexpected and fleeting. Motion pictures, on the other hand, are man-made, captured and can be replayed at will. They’re a re-play of real experience meant to evoke emotion or communicate a viewpoint.

    Films can serve as a shared point of reference for people to talk about their real life experiences, as well. Just as Weiss is prompted at the site of a real rainbow to yell or whisper, “LOOK!”, so are most people just as willing to share news of a film they found moving.

    For me Tasset’s Rainbow, in the context of Sony Studios, is a perfect commentary on our eagerness to share experiences, either in the moment or in a later recreation of the moment itself. It’s storytelling, which always takes second-stage to the actual events about which stories are created.

    Just as we know a movie isn’t real, we know the Rainbow isn’t real and we don’t expect it to be. But it still recalls in us memories of real rainbows, which is pretty awesome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>