Comparison of Chris Burden’s Urban Lights and Valeska Soares’ Vaga Lume

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) recently purchased Vaga Lume (2007), by Valeska Soares. Made up of numerous fine chains attached to light bulbs, the artwork evokes a similar feeling and experience to Urban Light installation (2008), by Chris Burden, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

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Urban Light, a sculpture by Chris Burden, features 202 restored antique street lamps, ranging from 20 to 30 feet in height. It has become an iconic Los Angeles attraction. Set on Wilshire Boulevard, next to the LACMA, Urban Light has been featured in multiple movies including Valentines Day, No Strings Attached, as well as a Guinness commercial, and even a Vanity Fair article.

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Valeska Soares’ Vaga Lume is comprised of perfect rows of single functioning bulbs connected to fine beaded chains nearly extending from floor to ceiling. SBMA bought the artwork in 2017 and is currently on display as part of the exhibition, Valeska Soares: Any Moment Now.

Both Vaga Lume and Urban Light have similar aesthetics. Not only do they showcase types of recollected light fixtures, but they are also visually arresting and interactive, lending to wider photographic engagement. These two artworks also utilize vintage lights. Vaga Lume uses light bulbs connected to a pull chain, while Urban Light features restored cast iron street lamps—both repurposing light fixtures from older eras. Both artworks also encourage interaction. Vaga Lume allows viewers to walk through dangling chains, which can be pulled to turn the connected light bulb on and off, to potentially make patterns with the light bulbs. Similarly, viewers can also roam through the larger street lamps in Urban Light.

The interaction between viewer and artwork encourages photography with both works. Furthermore, Urban Light and Vaga Lume’s sculptural qualities contribute to the overall photogenic aspects of each.  One could hope that Soares’ Vaga Lume may potentially become proportionately as iconic to the SBMA, as Burden’s Urban Light is to LACMA.

-Ariana Hoffman, Registrar Intern

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