Metro officially launches the Expo Line light rail on Saturday, and with this landmark expansion comes the debut of a new public art collection. The Expo Line includes a remarkable 176 commissioned new artworks by ten California artists.
Riders will find the expertly crafted pieces spread among ten new stations, and presented like an outdoor gallery of double-sided panels not only visible to people on the platform, but also to motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, or anyone else passing by.
Developing art on this scale is a hand-crafted process with several stages. Metro's newest pieces went through a series of rigorous evaluations before the works could begin to be re-imagined for a public space.
Artists create in their medium (painting or photography, for example) and then their work is translated into a public piece, fabricated to withstand an open environment.
Durable materials like porcelain enamel steel, glass and ceramic mosaic, and photographic porcelain tile help maintain the integrity of the artwork, making it resistant to graffiti, fading, wear and other hazards.
"Nothing is worse than if the artistic intention falls apart because of materials," said Jorge Pardo, Director of Art & Design for Metro Creative Services.
Pardo told KPCC that durability is essential because art pieces like these become neighborhood landmarks, and generations and generations of communities growing up seeing them.
The installations also send a positive message to riders, Pardo believes. Seeing a piece of artwork instead of a commercial image or advertisement shows that "a degree of care went into their station, and that care goes into their journey."
Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner