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Giant Muhammad Ali art installation to be unveiled at L.A. Live

February 28, 2011 | 10:39 am

Ali1

Starting in late March, concert-goers, pedestrians and other visitors to the L.A. Live complex in downtown L.A. will be greeted by a new, large-scale art installation depicting boxing legend Muhammad Ali. The installation, created by artist Michael Kalish, consists of approximately 1,300 speed bags arranged to create a likeness of the athlete.

The installation, titled "reALIze," stands 26 feet wide, 23 feet high (at its highest point) and 25 feet deep. The art work is scheduled to be unveiled March 25 at Nokia Plaza at L.A. Live and will remain on view through April 9. It will be free to view for the public, but visitors won't be allowed to touch it or interact with it. Organizers are hoping that the installation will travel to other cities later this year, but additional venues haven't been announced.

Kalish, whose studio is located in Culver City, said in an interview that the idea for the sculpture was born from a correspondence with Ali's wife, Yolanda, who had expressed her admiration for the artist's past work that used license plates as a sculptural medium. The artist created a piece for the Ali family, and their relationship eventually led to the new art installation.

The artist said he based his new work on an image of Ali taken by British photographer Michael Brennan during the late 1970s at Deer Lake, Penn. To design the work, the artist teamed up with the L.A. architecture firm Oyler Wu Collaborative, which assisted in the modeling of the installation.

Ali2Kalish said the project took three to four months of design time and then an additional five months of construction that took place in Gardena. 

The completed project features a metal frame structure, five miles of stainless steel cables and about 1300 speed bags.

The artist said that the installation cost "hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars." He said that the Ali family didn't contribute money to the project and that it was self-funded. Organizers said that the artwork is part of an agreement signed between Kalish and Muhammad Ali Enterprises, which oversees all licensing deals involving Ali.

On choosing to unveil the project at L.A. Live, Kalish, 38, said that he also had considered New York's Rockefeller Center and Central Park. "Being an L.A. artist I wanted it to be unveiled here," he said.

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Custom plates, from the DMV to the art gallery

-- David Ng

Photos (top): "reALIze." Credit: Jon Davis

(bottom): Michael Kalish. Credit: Jon Davis

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