Suspended 40 feet in mid-air – seemingly floating above the atrium of downtown L.A.’s Walt Disney Concert Hall – looms a storm of slate gray clouds. As time passes, the grays warp into bright oranges, greens and indigos, and the clouds emit waves of orchestral music.
The installation, called “Nimbus,” is a project of Yuval Sharon, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s current artist-collaborator in residence and artistic director of The Industry, an L.A.-based avant-garde opera company. The Industry is known for their ambitious performances, like 2013’s “Invisible Cities,” a headphone-set opera staged in bustling Union Station; and last fall’s “Hopscotch,” an “asphalt opera” set in 24 limousines zigzagging across Los Angeles, stopping at the Bradbury Building, Angels Fight and other city landmarks.
For “Nimbus,” Sharon tapped composer Rand Steiger to write the music that emits from the 32 speakers inside the cloud. For the construction of the cloud itself, he turned to artist Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics.
From the beginning, Shearn knew designing a massive art instillation to fit into a Frank Gehry building would be no easy task.
“That’s pretty intimidating – to design something that’s going to meld and fit into such an iconic piece of work,” he says.
Shearn and team built the clouds inside his cavernous warehouse art and living space at the Los Angeles Brewery, one of the oldest and largest artist colonies in the world.
They Photoshopped and prepared computer-generated renderings of the clouds, then got to work: constructing them with batting, chicken wire and steel.
Shearn is known for his large-scale, eye-catching installations at Burning Man, EDM festivals and Coachella, like the much-Instagrammed “Escape Velocity” (a roving, 36-foot-tall astronaut), “Helix Poeticus” (a massive, iridescent snail with a shell tagged by German street artists) and “Desiderium Eruca” (a butterfly with rainbow wings made of 50,000 flags).
Now, Shearn has begun to create art in the public realm: most recently with “Nimbus,” as well as this August’s “Liquid Shard,” which mesmerized Pershing Square.
Shearn created “Shard” – a sea of holographic mylar strips, connected to netting – with a group of architecture students visiting from London, along with support from NOW Art L.A.
“I was inspired by the murmuring of starlings, which is when massive groups of starlings fly around in concert, and they all turn at the same time somehow,” says Shearn. “I was really turned on by that concept. I wanted to create something up in the sky that you wouldn’t understand how it was there.
“[The piece] creates rainbows and scintillates and shimmers. The whole surface is not tethered in any kind of tensioned way; it’s just sort of draped in the air.”
The result was a silvery, fluttering sail that, for a few summer days, brought a touch of magic to an unloved park.
Patrick Shearn’s “Nimbus,” made in collaboration with The Industry, is on display at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Listen to his full conversation with DnA below.