Can’t go? They’ve brought it to you

Road­sides, win­dows, lawns. Art shows up all over Los An­ge­les County. It’s ‘Here.’

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - CHRISTO­PHER KNIGHT

A chain-link fence around an ur­ban oil field is an un­likely dis­play space to show a work of art. In Sig­nal Hill, how­ever, that’s ex­actly the lo­ca­tion Abel Ale­jan­dre chose for “Street Fighter,” his punchy black and white print.

Ale­jan­dre is one of 100 artists par­tic­i­pat­ing in the sprawl­ing, shrewdly con­ceived show “We Are Here / Here We Are” or­ga­nized by the artist-run Dur­den and Ray gallery in down­town Los An­ge­les. Small, tightly fo­cused shows have been the gallery’s spe­cialty, but the un­prece­dented mod­ern pan­demic brought on by the novel coro­n­avirus has sent it in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

Ninety-seven works have been in­stalled all over Los An­ge­les County in places view­able from the street or side­walk. Un­like other such art ex­hi­bi­tions — a small but grow­ing phe­nom­e­non, since most mu­se­ums and gal­leries closed and the mi­gra­tion of art to on­line dig­i­tal plat­forms has proved less than sat­is­fy­ing — this one is not con­cen­trated in a par­tic­u­lar part of the city. In­stead, it em­braces L.A. sprawl.

Sites in­clude a bus bench, a home’s front yard, the rollup door on a unit in an in­dus­trial park, a gym’s front win­dow, a home’s over­grown back­yard, the en­try to an aban­doned park­ing garage and scores more.

“Street Fighter” is a sign, not un­like a yard sign pro­duced dur­ing an elec­tion year. What ap­pears to be a

wood­cut or linocut print is af­fixed to an 11-by-17-inch sheet of card­board and at­tached to a wood stake.

It fits in as the fourth in a lineup with three cam­paign signs left over from the re­cent March elec­tions. Ale­jan­dre’s word­less im­age shows a sinewy man, his raised fists pro­pelled by an ex­plo­sion of white that frames his body.

A dreary stretch of con­ven­tional road­way be­tween an oil field, der­ricks pump­ing away in the dis­tance, and a pair of fast-food restau­rants flank­ing a big-box hard­ware store cre­ates a work­ing mi­lieu for street signs im­plor­ing votes for can­di­dates for lo­cal judge­ships.

Ale­jan­dre’s street fighter is a kind of veiled self-por­trait. The artist in­serts him­self as a cre­ative, non­vi­o­lent com­bat­ant in the pub­lic ef­fort for jus­tice.

In Wood­land Hills, 45 miles north of Sig­nal Hill, a sec­ond chain-link fence dis­plays a very dif­fer­ent art­work. At an over­grown back­yard in a leafy sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hood, Con­stance Mallinson has crafted an as­sem­blage sculp­ture.

“What Now?” con­sists of or­di­nary plas­tic refuse scav­enged from area streets. A lunch bowl, bot­tle, cup, sev­eral lids, a bro­ken toy — each bit of lit­ter is dec­o­rated with a photo-col­lage that shows an an­i­mal, per­son or place suf­fer­ing from the rav­ages of petroleu­mand nat­u­ral gas-de­rived plas­tics. Col­or­ful Na­tional Ge­o­graphic-style im­ages in­clude a white po­lar bear leap­ing from an ice floe in a pic­ture af­fixed to a white plas­tic foam tray.

Mallinson’s as­tute choice of an over­grown patch of sub­ur­bia cor­doned off by a chain­link fence ren­ders the pho­to­graphic sub­jects as ca­su­ally dis­pos­able as the plas­tic lit­ter. Not only does “What Now?” gain quiet author­ity by not hec­tor­ing, it also ac­quires a sense of gen­eros­ity: The artist in­cluded a typed sheet to ex­plain the ex­hi­bi­tion, adding that a viewer is wel­come to un­fas­ten and take home any of the pho­tocol­lage pieces.

So the as­sem­blage might be gone when you go, not un­like a dis­ap­pear­ing coral reef or Arc­tic bear. Mess­ing with the art is of course a risk for any pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tion like this. (Nine works dis­ap­peared within days of the May 16 open­ing.)

Sixty miles east, at the rear of a small in­dus­trial park in Up­land, Chris True­man has bolted a large paint­ing to a roll-up door of one unit.

The only other per­son around on the day I saw it was the dili­gent op­er­a­tor of a park­ing lot sweeper. The ex­pe­ri­ence was oddly thrilling.

Partly that’s be­cause, at a time when gal­leries and mu­se­ums are shut­tered and one mostly stays at home, rar­ity sud­denly de­scribes see­ing in per­son all but a few types of art, like video and dig­i­tal im­ages. This is the first paint­ing I’ve laid eyes on in months, out­side my own house.

And partly the plea­sure came from True­man’s sly evo­ca­tion of Ger­hard Richter, the Ger­man artist whose paint­ings of the past 50 years have ad­dressed the im­age tor­rent and its per­cep­tual com­pli­ca­tions. True­man’s paint­ing, ti­tled “DPW” (in­escapably sug­gest­ing De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works) is a lay­ered, graf­fiti-like com­po­si­tion of ges­tu­ral marks and spray paint, mostly in green, yel­low and gray, plus black and white. At­mo­spheric op­ti­cal space opens up, de­spite be­ing painted on a polypropy­lene sup­port. Color sits on the sur­face be­cause the syn­thetic ma­te­rial can’t ab­sorb acrylic paint. Pig­ment pud­dles, streaks and clouds.

The per­son-size pic­ture looks dis­tinctly worn, not un­like the or­di­nary metal door on which it hangs.

More than 100 miles sep­a­rate these three works. (Talk about so­cial dis­tanc­ing.) “We Are Here / Here We Are” is not a show that will likely by seen in its en­tirety by many peo­ple.

In­stead it has a neigh­borly feel. That’s one of its charms. This is art of­fered to folks oth­er­wise go­ing about their busi­ness. (It con­tin­ues through June 20, dawn to dusk.)

It’s also easy enough to see a num­ber of pieces by mak­ing an itin­er­ary through a some­what con­cen­trated area. In all there are (or were) 28 sculp­tures, 27 in­stal­la­tions, 26 paint­ings and draw­ings and 16 pho­to­graphs, videos, prints and col­lages.

At a house in Al­tadena, Mark Steven Green­field has in­stalled a totem-like sculp­ture in the lovely front-yard gar­den. A tall cone of grad­u­ated, mul­ti­col­ored plas­tic ves­sels, big pot at the bot­tom and small drink­ing glass at the top, is an­i­mated by swirling plas­tic ties. The ves­sel struc­ture is an “Homage to Mestre Didi,” the shaman­is­tic Afro-Brazil­ian who be­lieved that mem­ory is art’s cat­a­lyst.

A few min­utes away by car, Kim Abe­les fash­ioned a slip­cover for a bus bench at the north­east cor­ner of East Wash­ing­ton Boule­vard and North Hill Av­enue. Her home­made tex­tile, pho­to­printed with an im­age of a bed of pine cones and pine nee­dles, is an amenity for mass trans­porta­tion that, ideally, might help re­store the nat­u­ral world be­ing in­ti­mately pic­tured.

Or, at least, it was. The work van­ished within a day.

Two big pho­to­graphs by Is­mael de Anda III in the win­dows of a small, shut­tered San Marino gym show fan­tas­tic satel­lites spin­ning through outer space. Look closely, and the sci-fi space­ships are as­sem­bled from photo-col­lage frag­ments of farm equip­ment, a down-toearth mem­ory of the artist’s West Texas child­hood trans­formed into heady as­pi­ra­tions for the fu­ture.

Up a wind­ing road in the Pasadena hills, Adam Fran­cis Scott and Julie Wha­ley have in­stalled a big, translu­cent scrim painted in pink and pur­ple shapes. It greets vis­i­tors at the front door to the mod­est post-and-beam house, built in 1955 by the cel­e­brated ar­chi­tect Richard Neu­tra.

The paint­ing de­rives from a 1968 Sis­ter Corita silkscreen print, “A Rose Is a Rose,” once owned by art his­to­rian Con­stance Perkins, for whom Neu­tra de­signed the house. The clipped “rose” quo­ta­tion from Gertrude Stein as­serts the si­mul­tane­ity of in­di­vid­ual and in­ter­con­nected iden­tity.

Down the hill, in nearby Ea­gle Rock, an­other house and its front gar­den, de­signed in a com­pact Ja­panese style, are the pedestal for a curl­ing, coil­ing, loop­ing sculp­ture made from wooden strips vis­i­bly bolted to­gether. Re­becca Nieder­lan­der’s el­e­gant “Cen­tral Sen­si­ti­za­tion” climbs a tall tree by a dry stream com­posed from rocks, then leaps to the car port like an am­bi­tious wis­te­ria.

The ti­tle refers to a con­di­tion in the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem that pro­duces chronic pain — an ail­ment that might de­scribe our cur­rent COVID-19-rid­dled so­ci­ety — while the sculp­ture’s form is an art­ful di­a­gram of that bod­ily sys­tem. Two doors up, a spec­tac­u­lar ma­genta bougainvil­lea un­ex­pect­edly re­peats Nieder­lan­der’s form.

That’s one of the most ap­peal­ing fea­tures of “We Are Here / Here We Are.” The serendip­ity of art en­coun­ters in pub­lic places is em­bed­ded in or­di­nary ex­pe­ri­ence. Go­ing into art mu­se­ums and gal­leries is cer­tainly grat­i­fy­ing, but these works thrive be­yond in­sti­tu­tions or the mar­ket­place.

Next to the drive­way into an aban­doned park­ing garage on a Sher­man Oaks side street, Labk­hand Ol­fat­manesh trans­lates a co­nun­drum about nat­u­ral and so­cial pres­sures that women en­counter. Her in­stal­la­tion fea­tures a dozen fluid-filled plas­tic bags, all tied up in a tree with yards of twine. A bag at the top, just out of reach, holds a baby doll, while an­other at the base is empty, flat­tened and held down on the ground by a rock. The tree, un­sur­pris­ingly, is an ev­er­green.

The handy map at the Dur­den and Ray web­site (dur­de­nan­dray.com) will get you to the ex­pan­sive ex­hi­bi­tion’s far-flung sites. (Miss­ing works are be­ing re­moved from the map.) Be­yond that use­ful func­tion, though, the map also gives graphic, ed­i­fy­ing heft to a sim­ple re­al­ity: Artists are ev­ery­where in the L.A. sprawl, liv­ing and work­ing among us. Good to know, es­pe­cially in tough times.

Myung J. Chun Los An­ge­les Times

“STREET Fighter” by Abel Ale­jan­dre, posted like a cam­paign sign on Sig­nal Hill.

Pho­to­graphs by Myung J. Chun Los An­ge­les Times

“HOMAGE to Mes­tra Didi” by Mark Steven Green­field is in an Al­tadena yard. The work in “We Are Here / Here We Are” is ev­ery­where.

“WHAT NOW?” by Con­stance Mallinson sub­tly ex­plores en­vi­ron­men­tal rav­ages.

“CORITA, Con­stance, Richard, and Sharon” riffs on a Pasadena house’s his­tory.

“DPW” by Chris True­man goes about its work in an Up­land in­dus­trial park.

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