Image: © Carl Cheng

Image: © Carl Cheng

Introducing Carl Cheng’s "Tar Pool Project"

This Friday, LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab grant recipient Carl Cheng will co-host a walking tour of the still-active asphalt seeps in Hancock Park with Dr. Emily Lindsey, Assistant Curator at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. Dr. Lindsey will explain how scientists are using the exquisitely detailed paleontological record from the La Brea Tar Pits to learn about the impacts of climate change, while Cheng will explain how these sites have influenced his practice.

Asphalt (what we commonly refer to as “tar”), has long held Cheng’s fascination and his experiments with it as an artistic medium have had many iterations. The tour will conclude with a demonstration of his Tar Pool Project maquette, the latest version of an endeavor that spans almost three decades. The artist’s engagement with the Tar Pits began in 1990 when he met with George C. Page, founder of the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, to discuss the idea of making a public artwork at one of the museum’s unused sites. The idea gained support and additional research funding was obtained, but unfortunately the project was shelved due to Hancock Park's extensive renovation that occurred in the 1990s.

This, however, was not the end of Cheng’s experiments with the primordial material. In 2011, he obtained additional funds to conduct experiments with it in his Santa Monica studio. The artist purchased a 160 gallon drum, filled it with asphalt, and implemented valves, pumps, and other hardware to generate bubbles and observe the phenomenon of moving tar.

The endeavor again progressed in 2017, when Cheng received a LACMA Art + Technology Lab grant to develop a prototype demonstrating the concept as it would be displayed in Hancock Park. Presented in our Art + Technology Lab space, the work’s current iteration represents the most-recent phase of an effort the artist began at Hancock Park almost 30 years ago.

Art + Tech: Walking Tour of La Brea Tar Pits and Carl Cheng’s Tar Pool Project will take place this Friday, June 28, at 7 pm. The tour will meet at the Second Home Serpentine Pavilion by SelgasCano at La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park. To learn more about this project and others, visit

The Art + Technology Lab is presented by:

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The Art + Technology Lab is made possible by Accenture and Snap, Inc.

Additional support is provided by SpaceX and Google.

The Lab is part of The Hyundai Project: Art + Technology at LACMA, a joint initiative exploring the convergence of art and technology.

Seed funding for the development of the Art + Technology Lab was provided by the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission through the Productivity Investment Fund and LACMA Trustee David Bohnett.