Robert Irwin's palm garden takes shape at LACMA
As he did with the magnificent garden at the Getty Center, Irwin is here inserting plants into a structure articulated by Cor-ten steel walls, rusted to a soft, luxurious, velvety chestnut color. The walls at LACMA are low, never rising more than about knee-high. Along one side of the building they form bays to accommodate seating.
They also serve to level the grassy field at the sloping site, on which sits the travertine-clad new pavilion, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. So from north to south the garden gently rises to become the building's podium, as in a classical temple. An indentation around the pavilion's base at the level of the foundation reads as a long, dark, horizontal shadow -- a sharp line that subtly enhances the illusion of a building floating on the landscape.
Clusters of yellowish agave and purplish bromeliads work with the green, blue and grayish fronds of the assorted palms to create a quiet aura of slow, even expanded time. Ancient tropical ornamentals, the plantings evoke an antediluvian past, in keeping with the prehistoric sludge of the surrounding La Brea tar pits. They also exude an almost Victorian decorative sense, filtered through a clarifying lens of contemporary Minimalism.
More photographs of Irwin's evolving LACMA palm garden are below. Since Friday is National Public Gardens Day, why not use the opportunity to visit the work-in-progress or see the Irwin Garden at the Getty?
Follow Times art critic Christopher Knight on Twitter: @KnightLAT
Photos: Robert Irwin's palm garden at LACMA; Credit: Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times