The empty Metro center at the corner of Wilshire and La Brea did a little striptease yesterday as a colorful artwork was removed from the doomed building, which will soon fall for for the Purple Line extension.
Originally a coffee shop called Tilford’s, architect Welton Becket designed the corner structure in the 1940s. It later became a musical instrument store, an employment agency, and by 1984, a Metro Customer Service Center.
When Metro commissioned the piece from Jim Isermann in 2006, the building was gray and forlorn. The Palm Springs artist, known for his bold patterns and graphics, painted the structure bright green and created 500 panels of folded aluminum in three shades of blue. The dimensional sculpture that emerged was reminiscent of the expanded metal screens architects used to “modernize” buildings in the 1950s.
Carlson Arts, who have also fabricated work for Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Jeff Koons, and Charles Ray, crafted the panels. On Wednesday morning, Metro workers carefully removed and wrapped them in white foam before sending them off to storage. I imagine some kind of endless limbo in a Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse, but Isermann is more hopeful. “We are hoping to re-install the panels at a later date and appropriate place,” the artist emailed me. “But all is as yet undetermined.”