Cheekwood Prime Matter, 1997-98
Bronze, copper, stainless steel, and mechanical components
Museum purchase through funds provided by Ann & Monroe Carell, Jr.
With its two tall bronze columns and large metal crosspiece, Eric Orr’s Cheekwood Prime Matter functions as a monumental gateway, inviting viewers to walk through its frame. It is also one of the most dynamic sculptures at Cheekwood. Water continually runs down the structure’s ribbed sides, while both fire and fog dramatically emerge from the top on a scheduled cycle multiple times per hour. These elements transform the metal sculpture into a primordial threshold, drawing attention to the earth below, the atmosphere around, and the water and natural energy which flows through both. Early in his career, Orr became associated with Light and Space, a group of mostly California-based artists who focused on perceptual experience and viewer participation. He gravitated toward the elements and natural phenomena, with air, fire, water, and properties of metal becoming both the material and subject of his work. Please note that some components of Cheekwood Prime Matter will not be operational during winter months or the burn season.
Cheekwood Prime Matter is one of several complex, technologically-ambitious works Eric Orr realized that incorporated fire, water, and vapor clouds, all with “Prime Matter” in their titles. Versions appeared in Birmingham, Alabama, Denver, Colorado, and even Lund, Sweden, but the first was temporarily installed in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1981 for the exhibition Museum as Site. Orr recreated LA Prime Matter a decade later for the plaza at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Figueroa St. Consisting of two thirty-two-foot-high bronze towers atop a large black pedestal, the work also shoots gas flames up the sides of the work for a few minutes every hour.