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Posts from the "Art" Category

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Photo Exhibit Brings Human-Scale Public Art to Olympic Blvd. in Boyle Heights

The second installment of the Reflejos y Regalos de East Los art project at Costello Park in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The second installment of the Reflejos y Regalos de East Los art project at Costello Park in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Take a ride along Olympic Blvd. in Boyle Heights, and you will be struck by how unwelcoming it can feel to humans.

The street is quite wide and busy at certain times of the day, often supporting heavy truck traffic. The industrial sites that populate the area are generally windowless and sometimes rather noisy. At night, the road is quite dark and the area can feel empty, save for a few food trucks and vendors that draw small crowds. The sidewalks are often strewn with garbage (especially adjacent to vacated sites). And, along certain sections of the boulevard, you get a nice view overlooking Vernon and all the smokestacks sending pollution your way.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t people there — indeed, there are a lot. And there’s art, too. It comes in the form of a cluster of more than 50 historically significant murals depicting Chicano themes, history, and traditions in the housing development of Estrada Courts (for more see here and here).

But, it’s not enough to make the street feel human-scale.

Much of Olympic is populated with windowless industrial spaces and unkempt sidewalks. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Much of Olympic is populated with windowless industrial spaces and unkempt sidewalks. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Which is why it was so exciting to see a photo exhibit go up on the chain-link fence at Costello Park on Jan. 17th.

The temporary installation, a photo mural comprised of images of community members, is the second such installation in the Reflejos y Regalos de East Los (Reflections and Gifts of East Los) site-specific art project.

In celebration of their 40th anniversary, Boyle Heights’ socially conscious and community-oriented arts center Self Help Graphics & Art teamed up with photographer Rafael Cardenas (with support from the Pasadena Art Alliance and the NEA) to create a participatory project that would both engage the community and reflect the community back to itself.

Inspired by a cache of old black and white photos found buried in a box, says Evonne Gallardo, Executive Director at SHG, they set up pop-up photo booths in Mariachi Plaza, Costello Park, and Hollenbeck Park and invited people gathered there to sit for portraits. Read more…

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Opening Tonight: Ghost Bikes of L.A. Art Exhibit

An image from the studio installation. Image from Nona Varnado

Ghost Bikes L.A., a local art show honoring a decade of art, advocacy and community opens tonight 7 pm at Red #5 Yellow #7 in the Hel-Mel Bike District in East Hollywood.

“Through visually stunning art installations we aim to inspire viewers,” explains Nona Varnado, the curator of the exhibit. “We explore in depth the question of what ghost bikes are; their dual purpose of commemorating fallen cyclists while creating awareness of the need to demand change in our communities.”

Ghost Bikes are memorials honoring cyclists who are fatally – or sometimes critically – injured due to unnecessary collisions on streets not designed for shared traffic. They are a unique and positive response to a terrible event. By using art, communities around the globe have begun making individual memorials a powerful public awareness tool. Ghost Bikes are not put together by family or friends, but by local bike advocates to pay respect while making it publicly known that a death has occurred and making it obvious that a street or intersection is dangerous.

One artist featured in the exhibit is Sahra Sulaiman, one of the editors here at Streetsblog Los Angeles. Her featured work is a photo of cyclist Jose Vasquez lighting a candle for friend Luis “Andy” Garcia. Garcia was killed by a drunk driver as he, Vasquez, and several other cyclists rode home over the L.A. River on Cesar Chavez this past September.

“What is so important about ghost bikes is that these hit-and-runs leave families and friends utterly devastated. Not only are their loved ones mowed down, but most are denied any sort of closure because the perpetrators are rarely caught and/or punished appropriately,” Sulaiman writes. Read more…

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Final Weeks to See Never Built Los Angeles at A+D Museum

The Graveyard of transportation visions. All pics and captions by Dana Gabbard taken at the A+D Museum in the Miracle Mile of Los Angeles from the "Never Built" Exhibit.

Sunday afternoon I finally took in the New Built Los Angeles exhibit at the Architecture and Design Museum on Wilshire at Ogden (one block east of Fairfax). The always thoughtful Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times provides a good overview of the exhibit and notes it may hold lessons for a city grappling with new and exciting trends. Seven more pictures from the exhibition can be found at the end of this article.

Gary Kavanagh did an excellent rundown of the various Santa Monica related offerings for Streetsblog. I had heard years ago about “The Causeway” proposal Kavanagh describes. But to see the actual concept art and realize killing this thing involved an epic battle leaves one dumbfounded.

I especially enjoyed the hallway lined with transportation projects, a sort of graveyard for transportation visions. It includes various monorail projects (one of which Curbed LA dubbed a hyperloop precursor) along with the downtown People Mover, a heliport for LAX and proposed networks of subways lines and freeways for the region. Nearby I stumbled across Frank Gehry’s concept for the Metro headquarters building — it has a sort of Disney Hall vibe, I think.

Speaking of Disney not only do they have concept art of Walt’s original idea for a theme park (across from his studio in Burbank) but a truly scary proposal by a former Disneyland executive for a Bible themed park in Rancho Cucamonga. The schematic makes clear how much of a copy-cat in design it would have been of the Anaheim park. If I had gone a week before I could have seen a screening of the documentary about Bible Storyland. Oh, well.

The darkened room where they show animations of some of the proposals is a 5-6 minute continuous presentation which I found fascinating to take in. The same can be said for the entire exhibit. It deserves all the buzz it has been getting. I love that the captions are often blunt explaining why various projects died on the vine. Plus you have to love a show that includes a model monorail running on a loop. OK, I used the word love twice in a single paragraph, which I think signifies how much fun I had taking the show in. Give yourself at least an hour to work your way through all the various concept drawings, models, animations, etc.

Thankfully the show has been extended until Oct. 27th and by showing your TAP card the cost of admission is only $5. Plus the location is very easy to reach via Metro bus service on Wilshire (20/720) and Fairfax (217/780). Read more…

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“Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening” Art Train Visits Union Station Next Week

We picked up this news tidbit from The Transit Coalition Newsletter. Visit their website to sign up for the newsletter, join the coalition, or make a donation.

In New York, “Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening” art train kicked off and started its trek across the nation. This brain child of video artist Doug Aitken uses an Amtrak train to transport musicians and artists who will perform at 10 stops on the train’s trek from New York to California.

The sides of the train would be fitted with LED lights forming a very long video screen that responds to the speed of the train and surrounding weather. LACMA is one of seven museums along the route that will partner with Station to Station and receive a portion of sales from tickets sold for music performances. The train will stop at Los Angeles Union Station on Thursday, September 26.

The event is already sold out, but it’s a great example of how Union Station is rebranding itself as a destination, and not ust a train station. Follow the train by visiting the official website.

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Roads We Walk: Jovenes Inc and Art Center College of Design

Images provided by Eric Hubbard of Jovenes Inc., taken by Art Center students.

“The road I walk every day,

it’s no game, I’m trying to make my way.

People see what they want to see. That’s not me.

Take a look, take a look…Take a look, I might surprise you.”

The catchy beat and chorus spilled out of headphones hanging down from the ceiling at the Art Center Wind Tunnel Gallery, like an anthem to the sprawling city landscape. Bodies swaying, heads-bobbing as audience and artists alike moved through the small and carefully curated space.

Now on its second year, the collaboration between Jovenes Inc and Art Center School of Design produced a captivating collection of “ARTifacts.” The collection includes an original song, interactive installations, videos, photographs, print work, and live performances that pieced together the stories of a group of Angelenos from very different walks of life.

The collaboration is a negotiated collaboration between young men faced with the every day challenges of homelessness and graduate students students in one of the country’s most renowned design schools. The unusual experiment sprung out of a professor /student mentorship. Eric Hubbard, Development Director at Jovenes Inc. was a student of Professor Elizabeth Chin during his time at Occidental College. Chin, a trained anthropologist, is now a professor at Art Center in their Media Design Practices track, which focuses on “designing media systems to facilitate the agency of citizens…social justice, and generating knowledge…”

The Monday evening art opening gathered urban young men in baggy clothes, rubbing their hands, and smiling nervously in a space visibly unfamiliar. In contrast the art students paced back and forth guiding their collaborators and audience members through a maze of interactive visual, sensory, and audio pieces.

“This project means a lot to me,” said Lorenzo, or Mr. LA, one of the youth collaborators from Jovenes. “I hadn’t done this before, but now I feel like a superstar…” Read more…

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HOLA Brings Youth Art to City Bus Benches

A few months ago I noticed some intriguing art appearing on bus benches in my neighborhood between MacArthur Park and Lafayette Park, where Wilshire got its start as a dirt road through a barley field that Gaylord Wilshire named after himself and gave to the city of Los Angeles.*

The top five images are from HOLA. The bottom two by Dana Gabbard

All the benches carried the logo HOLA Public Art Project. This struck a cord as I remembered a space on the ground level of the Wilshire Royale apartment building (NE corner of Wilshire/Rampart) that in the past had been a venue of restaurants and clubs. More recently unoccupied, the building had suddenly sported the HOLA logo in its window and signs of new life after long being dark. A quick Google search revealed HOLA stands for Heart of Los Angeles, a free after school program in arts, academics and athletics for underserved and at-risk youth begun in 1989. I exchanged e-mails with Lee Schube, Communications Director, and Nara Hernandez, Visual Arts Director, who gave me the skinny on this intriguing project.

The artwork is by HOLA’s Visual Arts students, created during “We Are Talking Pyramids,” HOLA’s first public art project. Pearl Hsiung and Anna Sew Hoy, the 2012 Artists in Residence, guided the students as explained in this video and page on the HOLA website.

The 7 benches along Wilshire and 6th Streets will be up for 1 year. Hernandez enthused “It was a great experience to have the youth turn ad space into art space. HOLA has been in the neighborhood for almost 25 years and two years ago we decided that we wanted to give back to the community beyond the constraints of our campus by creating more public art. As a result, we began the HOLA Public Art Project, funded by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. It’s a series of Public Art Residencies where emerging and established artists collaborate with HOLA youth.”

She also kindly shared a description of the design process:

Students at HOLA [used] the cut-up technique, a literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text. The concept of cut-up can be traced to the Dadaists of the 1920s, but was popularized in the late 1950s and 60s by writer William S. Burroughs, and has since been used in a wide variety of contexts. The cut-up technique was introduced to the students in order to let them discover their own meanings from readily available sources. For this project, the students … cut-up articles from the Los Angeles Times and local Spanish and Korean language papers to create simple, yet poetic and whimsical phrases. The students [then transferred] their best phrases into a bench design, creating a font for the phrase, as well as designing the motif for the background. Read more…

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It’s Not Just a Bus Line. Streetsblog Explores the Orange Line Extension’s 25 Art Pieces

Ken Gonzalez-Day is the artist at Canoga Station's new platforms connecting the "old" Orange Line to the Orange Line Extension. This picture gives you an idea how large both the art panels and ellipses are.

Last week, I was given the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Orange Line Extension’s bike path and public art installation.  For both the Expo Line and the Orange Line Extension, Metro commissioned a team of L.A. County artists to personalize the stations by creating public art projects to reflect the community.  Los Angeles Times architecture critic Chris Hawthorne mocked the stations as “aggressively banal,” but Streetsblog South L.A.’s Sahra Sulaiman writes about how community groups are working to make the art even more accesible to those passing through.

With Sahra’s article fresh in my mind, I was wondering how the art could improve a station.  After all, there’s even less customization one can do with a bus stop, even a full Bus Rapid Transit stop and station, than you can with Expo Line stations.

Metro commissioned twenty five pieces of art at four new stations and the new platform at Canoga Station.  Each station had it’s own artist who created two pieces of elliptical art on the pavement and either three or four art panels that were in place of wind screens.  The exception is Chatsworth Station which only has two panels and one ellipse . The number of panels varied based on whether or not the panels faced the public.  In some cases, the back of the panel faces a wall.

Over one hundred and fifty artists submitted proposals based in part on community profile create by a local art advisory panel and other community leaders.  The profile described the local culture, heritage and in some cases artistic styles of the area surrounding the station.  For Metro, the community involvement in creating the guide was critical so each station provides not just some eye-pleasing art but some context on what kind of community one is entering as they step off the bus.  Because the street adjacent to the Orange Line Extension is commercial, with freight yards, strip malls and even a strip club facing the stations; it’s the art that provides the real introduction to the Station area.

In an effort to use this program to advance artists’ careers, Metro did not require that the artists have experience with either panel art or the glass mosaics that were on the station.  Artists were allowed to work in their preferred medium and specialists helped fit the original art into the mediums at the station.

Our review of each station is after the jump.  But even if you don’t ride the Orange Line on bus or bike, you can still visit the art.  You can arrange a tour for a group of 15 or more through the all-volunteer Metro Art Docent Council by calling 213-922-2738.  Don’t have 14 friends interested in a tour?  Metro is co-organizing with Valley College an exhibition about the Orange Line art.  Titled, Translations: Artists of the Metro Orange Line, it will run from early October to early December. The exhibition will take place at Valley College’s Art Gallery.  We will have more details as they become available.  But for now, on to the art!

Read more…

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Experiments in Enhancing the Experience of Public Art Along the Expo Line

A mosaic designed by Willie Middlebrook for the Crenshaw stop of the Expo Line. photo: sahra

Have you ever stood in front of a piece of public art and thought your experience would be all the awesomer if you had some context for the work? Or maybe you passed by a public artwork every day and it didn’t register with you until someone engaged you on questions of its value and meaning?

With those questions in mind, members of the Ride South L.A. team (Francois Bar, Tafarai Bayne, George Villanueva, and Benjamin Stokes), Ben Caldwell (of the Kaos Network in Leimert Park), and I thought it might be interesting to see how people were experiencing some of the work at the new stops along the Expo Line.

We decided to make a site-specific recording that offered an insider’s perspective on the art and the artist. We figured that once the recording was completed, we could then leave strategically-placed stickers with a brief blurb about the project and a phone number at the site for people to call. Callers would not only be able to hear the recording, but they would also have the option to record their own impressions of and responses to the work.

Ben Caldwell, left, recording his thoughts on the significance of Willie Middlebrook's art featured at the Crenshaw stop of the Expo Line. photo: sahra

Read more…

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30 Pianos in Less Than 3 Weeks…Elson Takes the Play Me I’m Yours Challenge

Maybe you saw them.

From April 12 through May 3, there were thirty pianos installed along high-traffic pedestrian corridors in Los Angeles County.  From the bustle of Union Station, to the charm of the Pasadena Playhouse District, to the iconic Santa Monica Pier, thirty pianos, designed and decorated by local artists and community organizations, sat right on the streets for everyone to play as they say fit.  The “Play Me I’m Yours” public art exhibit has toured the world since 2008.  It came to L.A. these past weeks in celebration of acclaimed conductor and pianist Jeffrey Kahane’s 15th anniversary as Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra music director.  You can see the location of all the pianos on this map.

But where most saw an interesting piece of public art, or a chance to entertain the masses by tickling the ivory, one Streetsblogger saw a challenge.   During the three week exhibit, Elson Trinidad traveled to all thirty pianos and performed.  Sometimes he took requests.  Sometimes he came with some songs in mind.  Sometimes, there were puppets.

After the jump is Trinidad’s thoughts on the exhibit and why he felt challenged to run the gauntlet.  Some of the best videos of his street performances will be spread out throughout his commentary.  If you want to hear Elson perform live, his next perfomance just happens to be at the l.A. Streetsblog fundraiser this Friday at the L.A. Eco-Village. Read more…

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Carving Out “Sacred” Space for Culture in the Streets

Supporters and friends of artist Patrick Henry Johnson gathered on 1/22/12 to celebrate the dedication of the mural, Elixir, to the community.

Although the pilgrimage route along Crenshaw Blvd. was short—0.8 miles, to be exact, it was rich in meaning.

The mission was the dedication of Patrick Henry Johnson’s 40×40 ft. mural, Elixir, to the community.

Led by the artist, approximately 25 “pilgrims” made their way from Starbucks towards the group of supporters and artists already waiting at the base of the resplendent African American woman he had painted, just as the day was coming to a close.

The colors generated by the setting sun mirrored those depicting her as a transcendent body, rising to occupy her rightful place in the heavens as her own, self-contained universe.

Johnson had decided to make the event a pilgrimage, he said to the supporters crowded around him in front of the work, because of his desire to bring the community together “in a collective agreement to make the mural sacred.” Although Johnson had done the entire painting himself, an effort requiring just under 3 full months of work, he acknowledged he couldn’t have done it without the support of the community. When he needed funds to rent a lift so he could reach the top of the wall, he said, friends came together to contribute the $270 that allowed him to finish the piece.

Friends and community members also lent moral support for him while he was painting, with one even calling to make sure he was ok when she heard him screaming and crying in front of the wall from across the boulevard. His screaming wasn’t madness, he explained to us. “On the second to last day [of painting], I had this incredible surge of energy…I discovered the reason I had to do the painting myself…I couldn’t have had another artist on the painting because of the love that I have for the subject matter.” And because, he realized, he needed to let her go. Read more…