Prof. Sandeep Mukherjee's Art Graces YouTube Theater

Pomona College Art Professor Sandeep Mukherjee looks down from stairway on his art installation at YouTube Theater.

A contemporary artist as well as a Pomona College art professor, Sandeep Mukherjee has ventured into the realm of public art, with his work on view in prominent locations.

His latest installation bursts from the corner of a staircase in the new YouTube Theater at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, home to the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.

The wall-mounted work, Suddenly Everywhere, 2021, seems to erupt “like a gathering of the earth and the sky moving everywhere,” the artist says.

Mukherjee still creates paintings and sculptures that are displayed in galleries, museums or private spaces. But his career in public art has taken flight. He already has been selected for large-scale permanent works at the Facebook offices in Los Angeles, a federal courthouse in Toledo, Ohio, and now the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater tucked beneath the roof of SoFi Stadium.

With a master’s degree in industrial engineering from UC Berkeley and a master of fine arts from UCLA, Mukherjee brings a scientific understanding of such concepts as movement, malleability and color to his work. He created the 204 pieces of hand-molded aluminum on the walls of the theater’s lobby by wrapping the pliable metal around sections of tree trunks, cross-sections of trees, broken limbs and even rocks. Then he painted the molded shapes in gradients of intensely colored acrylic—oranges that look hot to the touch, blood reds and varied hues of goldenrod, lizard green, indigo and amethyst that merge into each other. Seen together, the pieces sometimes almost look like microorganisms on a slide. Viewed separately, they resemble archeological finds—bones, stone tools, even pieces of bodies.

A work of public art must fit the place it is installed, both physically and functionally. Mukherjee's Suddenly Everywhere follows a bend in the wall and surrounds a doorway to the performance hall.  

“Traditionally we think of space housing the work, but in my case the work communes with space—turning corners, echoing shadows, absorbing light, and making room simply for what is there,” he says.

The artwork's ultimate function is to enhance the theater and welcome audiences to performances very different from those in the cavernous 70,000-seat NFL stadium.

From the parking lot and beyond, the glass walls of the YouTube Theater are meant to beckon.

“Depending on the time of day or night and the viewer’s location, the work becomes a membrane in flux, an interface that changes with the viewer’s perspective and movement; a porous skin that connects the inside and the outside,” Mukherjee says.