Lornayespeace’s Weblog


Free Art
June 10, 2009, 6:36 pm
Filed under: art, boredLA Rave, Chalk Rev, David Siquerios, Los Angeles, Ragazzi Room, SPARC
The Billboard Liberation Front subverts corporate "art" with public "vandalism" in LA

The Billboard Liberation Front subverts corporate "art" with public "vandalism" in LA

Visual culture overwhelms the public spaces of Los Angeles. Billboards, blimps, and the eyes of action stars in movie advertisements on buses follow us, and, often, move with us (quite literally, in the case of the buses). LA loves mass media, and mass media, with its giant, plastic, and mass produced heart, loves LA. Advertisements are the boring and expected elements of Los Angeles visual culture, however. The giant faces of celebrities and the catch-phrase catechisms of capitalism cover the sides of buildings like bird poop on a car that is already dirty, anyway. The public art that I wish to LA Rave about hides in plain sight amongst that commonplace glare of those friendly and invasive advertisements.

Since 1989 the city of Los Angeles has

Origins of Gay Rights Movement segment on The Great Wall of Los Angeles, along the Tujunga Flood Control Channel of the San Fernando Valley (there's a nice bike path there)

Origins of Gay Rights Movement segment on The Great Wall of Los Angeles, along the Tujunga Flood Control Channel of the San Fernando Valley (there's a nice bike path there)

commissioned over 150 public artworks. Before that, in 1976, SPARC, the S.ocial and P.ublic A.rt R.esource C.enter, started finding spaces, people, and time to create community murals that communicate a narrative of Los Angeles that is far more compelling than any $10 movie, or one million dollar movie poster. And even before that, in the 1930s, David Alfaro Siqueiros, of Los Tres Grandes, ‘the three great’ Mexican muralists (and communists…the best known, perhaps, is Diego Rivera), painted three murals in Los Angeles.

“La América Tropical”, 1932 detail by David Alfaro Siqueiros on Olvera St

“La América Tropical”, 1932 detail by David Alfaro Siqueiros on Olvera St

Siqueiros’ mural “Tropical America” still covers/makes up the space on the second floor of the Italian Hall on Olvera Street. Siqueiros’ use of public space to represent a critical view of the United States in relation to Latin America almost got him kicked out of the country (he had already been kicked out of Mexico). Controversy is key, and public art that challenges the mundane humdrum of city streets and understandings, keeps new images and ideas out on the visual culture playing field.

Los Souls Cafe Downtown

Los Souls Cafe Downtown

I’m not saying that all public art in Los Angeles challenges the status quo with subversive intentions.  I’m just so thrilled when I see some art/graffiti/murals that represent the thoughts and interests of somebody who’s not trying to get me to watch a TV show, buy a car, or care about either of those things.  Thank goodness for drawings I’ve never seen before, and even that mural of joggers on the 10 west leading out of Downtown that I’ve seen so many times.  I also like that creepy baby holding a ball on the Santa Ana Freeway.  If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

Other people, more into lists than I, have compiled routes and archives of some of the more monumental displays of public art in Los Angeles.  This website is thorough in regards to commissioned installations.  Here you can find information about the art on the purple line.  This is another website that talks about LA murals and their connection to Los Angeles culture and history.

Great Wall of Los Angeles

Great Wall of Los Angeles

Although I’m excited that these resources are available, and I’m sure you could spend some money buying guide books, coffee table books, or going on tours, the great part about the public art is that it’s everywhere.  It’s on the sides of buildings and freeways.  It’s in coffee shops, parks, and those electrical boxes that interrupt the sidewalks like metal bushes.  These images help me find my way around the city, or at least make getting lost much more interesting: past the giant guns that point in either direction, before the long orange face, if I see the caged monkey I’ve gone too far, ect.  So this is my first LA Rave: Public art!  It’s everywhere, it’s free, and anyone can participate.