Mark Lere | 'Who, What, Where?' at Grand/LATTC Station

LA-based sculptor unveils refurbished piece

Written by

Maria Kyriakos

Photographed by

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In downtown Los Angeles at the Grand/LATTC Metro Train Station, artist and sculptor Mark Lere presented his piece, “Who, What, Where?” to the public this past weekend. The reinstallation comes 20 years after the original, when the A Line first opened. Leres sculpture consists of a series of sandblasted texts including human figures and symbols that push forward the notion of travel as a parallel to where audiences are going and coming from.

Leres long career is representative of this, as his reinstallation is added to his roster of additional acclaimed pieces throughout region. “Who, What, Where?” stands out as not only a reprisal but a celebrated piece of the symbolism of life and the societal tendency of how we pursue our aspirations.

How has your artistic approach changed in comparison to the first installation all those years ago?

In revisiting the LA Metro Grand site, I have changed the visual interplay of elements from the earlier presentation, but still considered the concepts of “Who, What, Where?” as initially installed years ago. With this reexamination I continue my interdisciplinary approach to public works with each specific site in terms of the architectural setting, use of the location, the function of the space, and interaction of people “activating the site.” I value these opportunities to create artworks with a responsibility to contribute to and interact with the public and the physical and psychological worlds we live in. I have concentrated more on public works over the past twenty-years as I value knowing the public genuinely discovers artworks without preconceived expectations during their daily experiences. Gallery shows also have different levels of experiences, but generally the viewer enters a gallery with preconceived expectations in an art historical context.

Like the symbolism of the station–a means to get to where they need to go–how are your sculptures paralleled to that?

The LA Metro Trade Tech location relates to a moment in time – “the Moment of Being There” as people are getting on or off the train for short periods of time – coming and going. The audience continues to be individuals who are in transit from one location to another, from one frame of mind to the next, from home to work or school, etc. Revisiting the site due to the architectural changes to Metro’s platform, the new elements present a reorientation of the viewing experiences. The elements are lifted from the ground, so the viewers interact with them looking up rather than walking on them.

What does the meaning of language in your pieces mean to your work?

In terms of symbolism, my 3-dimensional works are a visual language -- conceptual models of ideas that evoke a temporal relationship. There is an ambiguous quality between the objects as they are placed on the platform’s structure that becomes a “stage” for investigation and engagement.

What do the artwork elements you use–human figures and symbols–represent to you as an artist?

The four aluminum elements are handmade and reveal the construction process: @ (AT) sign puzzle, i.e. “Are you there?”, an hourglass form, a cloud like/smoke figure that draws attention to the built-in speakers on the poles of the Metro Station with a tongue-in-cheek reference to “Smoke-screen", and a cartoon-WOW shape; referencing the “notion of Surprise!”

What sets a part of having your work in a public space, as opposed to a gallery?

The LA Metro project provides an environment for the travelers to “wonder and ponder the moment,” and if there is confusion or contradiction to what they experience, that is ok. There is a playfulness to the elements, without a specific literal narrative that offers an individual sense of discovery with the interplay and contradiction of ideas and natural forms that are more ethereal (such as a cloud) with the use of fabricated materials and man-made elements constructed from aluminum. I find public work to be creatively challenging in approaching a site and engaging the parameters and 3-dimensional experiences of the project. The collaborative nature of working with city officials, architects, landscapers, consultants, and the stakeholders of each community adds to the process. Over the years my works incorporate elements of humor and irony, materiality, fluid thinking, questions, historical references, language, and poetic license. I enjoy hinting at a hidden relevance – an inside-out irony – the obviously unobvious...as architect Wulf Boettger has noted about my work. His comment that my artistic environments within a space are “narrative science” is an interesting interpretation of my thinking process. Bringing all these sensibilities to a site further develops an ongoing dialogue and connectiveness with each public work, that may or may not relate to earlier or later projects. The idiosyncratic qualities of my installations are characteristics I have continued to explore over the years.

More than 20 years later and with a presumably different audience, what do you wish for viewers to take away from the reinstallation?

Not sure if there is specifically a different audience using the metro rail line as it is likely students going to and from the school, and more individuals are using the train overall, but this new experience is different as the artworks are now elevated from the ground. Previously the sculptural elements were directly installed as floor inlays and used text as part of the overall experience. This reinstallation is a different approach to the same theme of travel in time, in space and travel in one’s mind…a sense of movement in one’s life. 

What do the artwork elements you use–human figures and symbols–represent to you as an artist?

Specifically, the four aluminum 3-dimensional elements address the architecture of the platform differently and not directly relative to the users buying tickets to ride the train. There is an uplifting feeling to looking up — the action that references looking ahead to the future while remembering the past. The viewers can wonder about the different sculptural elements with a sense of contemplation and curiosity. What is interesting with this reinstallation is how I have been able to continue a dialogue with the site over the years, and this opportunity to work again with Metro continues the process of artistic investigation and change.

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Mark Lere, Who, What, Where?, Art, Maria Kyriakos