Changes are afoot at the busy intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. The artwork that in 2006 transformed the Metro Customer Center façade from a dreary institutional facility into an eye catching and playful landmark befitting its prime Miracle Mile setting is being deinstalled and carefully stored. Removal is required due to demolition of several buildings at the corner site that will be transformed into a subway station portal as part of the Metro Purple Line Extension.
Not to worry! The artwork is expected to be reinstalled at a later date on Metro property when the right venue is found and with aesthetic input from the artist.
Back in the early 2000s, Metro Art saw an opportunity and commissioned Jim Isermann, an artist known for his bold-pattern designs in work that includes furniture, wall coverings, rugs, paintings and fabric covered sculptures to create a dynamic and colorful exterior to enhance the customer appeal as well as create Metro awareness. Isermann’s work is inspired by the architectural vernacular of Southern California sun screens used to cosmetically ‘modernize’ architecture in the 1950s and 60s. The screens traditionally ignored original ornamentation and simply wrapped the ‘offending’ building.
In Isermann’s own words, “The steel module design consists of shapes with 3 orientations, each powder coated in a different blue hue, a combination of which creates an illusion of cubes in three dimensions – a building block.”
Originally the site of Tilford’s Restaurant and Lounge, a mid-century restaurant designed by famed LA architect Welton Beckett, the building stood empty for years. In 1984 it was purchased by the Southern California Rapid Transit District for Metro Rail’s original westbound alignment. Over the years it was stucco clad and painted institutional gray. It was nearly invisible to passersby despite its prominent location.
Metro Customer Centers help thousands of patrons a month purchase passes, obtain route and transit information and transact reduced fare applications. In addition, 2,500 patrons visit the Lost & Found operations on a monthly basis to claim articles. Earlier this year, the Customer Center moved east on Wilshire to the corner of Vermont Avenue and can be found at the street plaza level above Wilshire/Vermont Station.
Jim Isermann (b. 1955, Kenosha, Wisconsin) earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and a Master of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts. His work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe and is held in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others. Isermann has been awarded grants from Art Matters, the California Community Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has completed public commissions for the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Texas, Ohio State University and Princeton University, to name a few.