IN YOUR FACE: HOW ARTISTS TRANSFORMED LA’S URBAN LANDSCAPE AN INSTALLATION IN 3 MOVEMENTS
AN INSTALLATION IN 3 MOVEMENTS
Angel City Brewery, 216 S. Alameda, Los Angeles, CA 90012
OPENING: April 11, 6:30 pm to 10 pm
Featuring a live performance by the Society for Experimental Musicians (Sex.M.)
Artwork, photos and ephemera documenting the anti-establishment art scene in the 80’s in downtown LA, focusing on the Art Dock, the Atomic Cafe, the American Hotel and the faces and walls of the Arts District, featuring work by Carlton Davis, Ed Glendinning, Irving Greines and Stephen Seemayer.
There was a an explosion of creative activity in downtown Los Angeles in the 70’s and 80’s when hundreds of artists colonized the empty warehouses and abandoned factory spaces in the eastern section of the urban center, extending into the area by the LA River now known as the Arts District. Street installations, performance art and innovative exhibitions in adapted spaces enlivened the blighted streets and paved the way (regrettably, some might say) for the renaissance of downtown that continues to this day. Artists such as Skip Arnold, Bob & Bob, John Baldessari, George Herms, Paul McCarthy, Llyn Foulkes (to name just a few) benefited from the vigor and vitality of a pioneering community of artists who eschewed traditional gallery venues for non-traditional exhibition space, organized guerilla-style in warehouse spaces, on the street and in your face. Jonathan Jerald
A Brief History of the Art Dock
The ART Dock, the world’s first drive-by Art Gallery, existed in Downtown Los Angeles from 1981-1986. The idea for this alternative gallery came one day when I and several other artists were sitting in the late afternoon sun in the loading dock of my loft. A car drove by, stopped, and stared at us. We thought that they thought we were an exhibit. We, the artists, became totally still. When the car drove away we broke into laughter. What a great idea, I exclaimed, a drive-by gallery in a loading dock. It seemed a logically extension of LA’s Car Culture, where we have drive-by banks, restaurants, and churches. The loading dock, where commodities are unloaded and loaded into the city, was a perfect place for a drive-by gallery. The Art Dock came into being.
Like many art ideas, the Art Dock demanded a manifesto. The manifesto written was intended to be a playful reworking of ideas about Los Angeles as a place and art as a commodity. The Art Dock out grew its manifesto and morphed into other things over the years of its existence. As I saw it the Art Dock lived through four definitions. I called them acts. The first year, Act 1, was the manifesto. In Act 2, the Art Dock became a community gallery for the Downtown LA group of artists. Act 3 was about the Olympics, when in 1984 the Olympic games came to LA and visual artists were promoted as part a program to show the world that LA was a center of world culture not just in the film industry, but also in all the other arts. Act 4 was about my idea that the Art Dock could be a legitimate business, which was a comic disaster ending with the closing of the gallery.
The Art Dock had 40 different installations by 35 artists during its existence. In the fall of 2012, I published a book about the Art Dock. The Art Dockuments chronicle all the stories of the exhibitions and the artist who showed in the drive-by gallery. It also tells the story of when loft living was illegal, its subsequent legalization, the beginning of the loft life style boom, and finally the rise of the institution of art over the alternative galleries, which populated downtown LA in the early 1980s. The book is available on Amazon, the website www.artdock.net, or from the District Gallery.
As an adjective, it describes something that passes quickly into and out of existence. As a noun, it is a person without a permanent home. From 1977 to 1981, Stephen Seemayer’s Super-8mm camera captured a transient era in Downtown L.A., when a vibrant art scene thrived among abandoned warehouses, hotels and factories at the city’s urban core. But the artists profiled in the resulting documentary, “Young Turks,” were only part of the story. The streets themselves were the other: The greasy spoons and dive bars where the artists hung out, and the homeless guys in the alleys and parking lots around the artists’ studios. Created by Seemayer and Pamela Wilson out of stills from “Young Turks” and other images of the period, these photomontages evoke the transient nature of landmarks and people that are no longer around.
URBAN WILDERNESS: Chaos Transformed
In Your Face—The American Hotel
Urban Wilderness—Chaos Transformed is a series of photographs revealing the images I’ve discovered while randomly wandering through blighted urban neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Manhattan, Havana, San Francisco, Paris, Rome and other densely populated cities.
Amidst the litter and decay condemned by many as ugly, I’ve been lucky to find beauty—oddly, the beauty of ugliness, a beauty that is quickly disappearing as “progress” consumes older neighborhoods in the name of “urban renewal.” A Washington Post review of my Urban Wilderness work expresses how I feel: “Urban renewal and gentrification are supposed to be good things. But here [in the images of Urban Wilderness], . . . these improvements seem almost sad.”
All the images on display here were captured on a single wall—the wall of The American Hotel situated just a couple of blocks away on Hewitt Street. During the last ten years, I’ve visited the wall frequently, witnessing and documenting its ever-changing character. The wall has been like a living organism, constantly evolving into new iterations, as layers of weather, grime, graffiti and personal expression contribute to a wild mixture of color, texture and words.
In recent months, I’ve noted–sadly–that the wall may be losing its character. More and more, murals have consumed its surfaces, stifling the spirit that once was.
All the images are displayed exactly as I found them. I’ve abided by a self-imposed rule: I will not alter anything that I find, either physically or through digital manipulation. What you see is exactly what I saw, without embellishment.
Hope you enjoy the work. And, thanks for looking.
Vincent Barrios (Angel City), 213 622 1261
Carlton Davis, 626 840 7997
Irving Greines, 310 893 9393
Ed Glendinning, 213 819 9474
Jonathan Jerald (District Gallery), 213 814 7164
Stephen Seemayer, 760 814 3958
District Gallery is a project of Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Space, a 501(c)(3) arts non profit building an the Arts District Center for the Arts which will open in 2014 at Santa Fe One. For more, see ladadspace.com