All notes written by Carlyn Aguilar | Notes on Looking

L.A. CITY COUNCIL PASSES KEY MURAL ORDINANCE

Let’s celebrate!  Ten years later Los Angeles is finally getting its murals back now that the new mural ordinance has been passed.  I am excited that LA’s walls will be covered once again but also curious (and a bit worried) how the registration fee and the 45-day waiting period will affect spontaneous murals and street art.  Or perhaps it won’t… Time will tell. Below is The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles’ (MCLA) Press Release about last week’s vote from the Council. On Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Los Angeles City Council passed a new mural ordinance for the city by a 13 to 2 vote, thus ending a decade during which Los Angeles enforced a mural ban on private property. A second reading and vote next week will complete the formal process of official passage. The ordinance provides for regulatory oversight of new murals, as well as official recognition of already existing murals. The ban of the last decade was a product of a 2002 court nullification, on First Amendment grounds, of the City’s Comprehensive Sign Code of 1986. The new mural ordinance requires the registration of a mural with the Department of Cultural Affairs in order for it to enjoy full rights under the law.  This registration will include payment of a registration fee, completion of a form, and a 45-day waiting period to allow members of the public to review and comment on the mural as a matter of required procedure. Once installed, a mural may not be removed or altered for a minimum of two years except under particular circumstances.   Under...

LA is getting its murals back!

Back in July, muralists from all over Los Angeles filled up room 340 in City Hall to find out that the LA City Mural Ordinance could not be agreed on and we’d all have to wait until September to find out when and under what circumstances original art murals on private property would be legal again.  But then in September the City postponed it to October.  After a 10-year Mural Moratorium, artists were getting tired and fed up.  (Here’s the link to my post back in July about the Public Hearing in case you missed it.) So on Thursday, we all returned to that same room in City Hall to find out about the future of LA’s walls.  The City Planning Commission (CPC) heard many artists, teachers, activists, etc. explain once again what should be included or disregarded in the proposed ordinance.  Many agreed on the same issues as last time, such as how the definition of “Original Art Mural” shouldn’t include digitally printed images and that single-family homes should be able to have a mural.  The difference in this hearing was that more artists who wanted digital murals included in the ordinance spoke their minds, including Judy Baca from SPARC (who failed to attend the last hearing). After the discussion went back and forth between council members, compromises were starting to be made.  In the end the council members agreed that residential buildings with 2 units could lawfully display a mural.  However, even though there was a big divide in the issue of digitally printed images being permitted, it was not voted against.  We will just have to...

From LA to Seoul: Félix González-Torres retrospective, Interactive art at MOLAA and Kumho, Artspectrum at Leeum, Do Ho Suh, Gala Porras-Kim

This past month I’ve been roaming around Asia, not only eating amazing food but also checking out the local art scenes in each place.  My first stop was Seoul in South Korea.  Notes on Looking contributor Andy St. Louis, who lives there, nicely organized a detailed itinerary of important and interesting art spots in this lively city.  Luckily NOL readers will soon be able to read Andy’s coverage of the upcoming 9th Gwangju Biennale. As I walked around Seoul’s many museums and galleries, I couldn’t help but make connections with LA’s art scene, more specifically LA’s Latin art scene.  First of all, the big show going on this summer until Sept 28 is Cuban-born Félix González-Torres, his first retrospective in Asia.  We know his work well in the U.S. as he died quite young in NYC in 1996, due to AIDS. Surprisingly, I first came across his work in a Seoul  subway station, a billboard of an unmade, unoccupied bed with two pillows.  Immediately I felt the sense of loss and longing that González-Torres often portrays in his work.  But I also noticed the two pillows together and touching; a feeling of love and connection is equally created.  As I traveled around the city, I began to spot the same billboard, six in total. This retrospective on view at Plateau, Samsung Museum of Art in central Seoul also has work on view at its sister museum Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, such as two round wall clocks Untitled (Perfect Lovers), which plays with the notions of love, partnership and duality (The clocks are set at the same time but...

It’s still illegal to make a mural on private property! City Planning Commission delays Mural Ordinance.

LA used to be the mural capital of the world.  For the last 10 years, this title has withered away as there has been a city-wide ban on murals on private property.  Yesterday at City Hall in room 340, I was surrounded by many artists to listen to and fight for the future of LA’s murals. For two hours of public comment, artists and community members came up one by one to share their issues concerning the proposed LA City Mural Ordinance, such as artist Anna Siquieros (the niece of iconic Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros), Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA) Executive Director Isabel Rojas-Williams, muralist and United Painters and Public Artists (UPPA) co-founder Raul Gonzalez,  Art Historian and UPPA co-founder Lisbeth Espinoza, CSUN Professor Yreina Cervantes, muralist Carlos Callejo, and the list goes on and on… The majority of speakers were unhappy with the ordinance.  One huge concern was that the community had attended several meetings and had submitted hundreds of written correspondences to give their ideas to the Department of City Planning (DCP), however, many changes and significant language modifications had been made later by city officials without the local art community’s input. According to UPPA, they are disappointed “by the political process, which favors the interest of big advertisement companies and digital graphic groups that negotiate backroom deals when support from the local art community is not achieved.” Parts of the Ordinance that many artists opposed include: 1.     “Digitally printed images” included in the definition of a mural- Artists argued that a mural should be hand-painted or hand-tiled.  They also stated that vinyl is not...

Hecho en Los Angeles: Slanguage, Vincent Ramos, Nery Gabriel Lemus, Analia Saban, Camilo Ontiveros

I have to admit that I was thrilled to see that several of my favorite Latino artists were chosen to participate in Made in LA.  According to the 2010 census, Latinos make up 44.4% of Los Angeles’ population.  So I would only expect that they get some attention and recognition in a biennial about art made here.  Fortunately artists like Slanguage are making sure to educate and foster new talent in areas of LA where many Latinos live but are not traditionally recognized by the art world.  ­¡Que viva Wilmington! If you haven’t heard the news yet, Slanguage is one of the five finalists up for the Mohn award.  If they win the prize, they will receive $100,000 to continue doing the great work they do.  !No hay excusas, vota ya! This socially engaged collective includes Mario Ybarra Jr., Karla Diaz and a long list of collaborators.  Their interactive installation at LAXART This Is a Takeover, A Ten-Year Survey of Slanguage documents 10 years of projects by artists such as Christopher Reynolds, Mario “Dred” Lopez, Mario Ybarra Jr., Rick “Taker” Saenz, Christopher Rivera, Betty Marin, Gabriel “GOB” Martinez, Angelica Muro, Eric Marques, Emilio Venegas Jr., Steve De La Torre, Antonio De Jesus Lopez…The Slanguage crew es impresionante!  Their “takeover” of LAXART is like the Indians of All Tribes takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969.  But unfortunately Slanguage won’t be there for 19 months and most likely will not be forcibly thrown out by the US government (but I won’t speak too soon…).   Not only have they taken over the building inside and out (with their incredible mural on the...

Monster Drawing Rally 2012

LA’s fifth annual Monster Drawing Rally, which inaugurated the relationship between Outpost for Contemporary Art and Armory Center for the Arts took place last Sunday, June 17th at Armory Center for the Arts.  100 amazing artists participated. Artists included: Danielle Adair, Steven Bankhead, Joe Biel, Elonda Billera, Holly Boruck, Richard Bott, Brian Bress, Heather Brown, David Burns, Andrew Cameron, Juan Carlos Muñoz-Hernandez, Matthew Carter, Xavier Cázares Cortez, Lorraine Cleary Dale, Luke Davis, Jeseca Dawson, Michael Dopp, Veronica Duarte, David P. Earle, Ariel Erestingcol, Allison Fisher, Diego J. Garza, Paul Gillis, Aimee Goguen, Justin Greene, Margarete Hahner, Lia Halloran, Robert Herbst, Gregory Michael Hernandez, Sergio Hernandez, Onya Hogan-Finlay, David Hughes, Kim Kelly, Olga Koumoundouros, Aitor Lajarin, Daniel Lara, Nery Gabriel Lemus, Jeff Levitz, Kristi Lippire, Patricia Liverman, Karen Lofgren, Nick Lowe, Justin Lowman, Lisa Madonna, Oscar Magallanes, Dana Maiden, Melissa Manfull, Melise Mestayer, Rebekah Miles, Dylan Mira, Melanie Moore, Nikko Mueller, Tracy Nakayama, Hazel Mandujano & Nancy Cahill, with Tucker Neel, Christine Nguyen, Chris Oatey, Gina Osterloh, Michael Parker, Zack Paul, Julia Paull, Alia Penner, Jennifer Phelps, Nancy Popp, Gala Porras-Kim, Max Presneill, Vincent Ramos, Christy Roberts, Jean Robison, Steve Roden, Brett Cody Rogers, Kimberly Rowe, Simone Rubi, Yoshie Sakai, Kristofferson San Pablo, Shalini Sanjay Patel, Finishing School, Jeannie Simms, Jennifer Smith, Niko Solorio, Meriel Stern, Amelia Symes, Brendan Threadgill, Elizabeth Tremante, Chris Trueman, Hataya Tubtim, Carrie Ungerman, Mark Verabioff, Keith Walsh, Matt Wardell, Carrie Whitney, Rosten Woo, Jacob Yanes, Amanda Yates, Carrie Yury, Bari Ziperstein, Weronika Zaluska & Jeff...

Duality y el tiempo: Regina José Galindo at MOLAA; Daniel Lara, Camilo Cruz, Ahree Lee, Dino Dinco, Donnie Molls, Linda Vallejo and others in “Random Acts of Time”; Ethan Turpin’s stereographs; Monster Drawing Rally this Sunday/este Domingo!

Guatemalan performance artist Regina José Galindo is standing on a high, wooden stage inside the Project Room at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA).  A man begins to cut around her with a saw as she stares straight ahead without any expression.  Although he quickly gets tired, he continues to saw.  The museum is noisy, full of squeaky wood being separated.  Galindo continues to stare ahead, never looking down at the ground, at him or her audience.  But we all begin to predict the next moments as the piece of wood loosens and her body begins to wobble and incline.  She takes a deep breath.  The wood breaks open.  Galindo falls into the abyss of her stage with a surprised look on her face.  We hear her inside what now seems like a little house.  Somebody from the audience runs up the steps of the platform to check if she’s ok.   To the woman’s surprise, Galindo has closed the rectangular hole back up with its fallen piece.  She remains underneath, quiet. Galindo uses her body in the way performance artists did in the 60s and 70s by testing her physical and psychological limits.  Her performances can be considered a response to the deep socio-political issues concerning women, inequality, crime, etc. commonly found in Latin America.  The exhibition Vulnerable, on view until Sept. 30th, includes documentation of other performances, objects and sketches by Galindo. In an interview with Idurre Alonso, MOLAA Curator, Galindo explained that this performance, titled Third World, is about “the anxiety caused by our own fears; fears caused by the world falling apart and you being...

Cruzando la frontera sin cruzar: Hugo Crosthwaite, los Zapatistas y Tierra Brillante; Self Help Graphics gets a new mural; Books: Libros Schmibros y Rebekah Miles; Urban Legends; Cafe Vida

Crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is always exciting and adventurous, as I never can predict what is going to happen en el otro lado.  Luis De Jesus in Culver City just made the drive to TJ a lot shorter for us Angelinos.  Upon entering Tijuana-born artist Hugo Crosthwaite’s exhibition Tijuanerias, the viewer crosses this symbolic frontera into the border town.  His 102 small ink drawings are aligned one after another, which reflect the lives of the people that inhabit this transitional, diverse place.  Images of street dwellers, young couples, prostitutes, outcasts, children, workers, drug dealers, narcos and everyday people mingle with (and perhaps become) bizarre animals (let’s not forget those striped donkeys, otherwise known as the Tijuana Zebra or zonkey), mermaids, calacas y calaveras, spirits and angels. The images depict the grotesque, referencing Goya’s “Caprichos”. Some are waiting, some are crossing; they are all inhabiting this in-between place that looks like purgatorio for that same moment in time.  They live amongst the buildings and cables with the ubiquitous border wall as the backdrop, sometimes covered in graffiti, sometimes touched by a rotulista.  And for those of us who know (and love) this city, we recognize, romanticize and eventually grow nostalgic for it. Each drawing is a page in the lives of these characters.  Crosthwaite introduces the narrative but doesn’t finish it for us. Como en una telenovela, we must face the drama but are always left hanging. Once you’ve passed la frontera of the first gallery space, you then enter the dreamy enlarged world of these same characters.  The viewer is invited to share the space and delve deeper into...

Narcos, Feral scapes and Art on the Radio: Edgardo Aragón; “West is More”; Xavier Cázares Cortéz; Radio Break: Pedro Reyes, Brandon LaBelle, & Arnoldo Vargas

Many Mexican artists are tackling the theme of drug trafficking in their work, often by portraying the violence and aggression in ways that are sensational and direct.  One artist who is attempting work in the complete opposite way is Edgardo Aragón, whose first solo-exhibition in the US is on view at Cal State LA’s Luckman Gallery, in collaboration with LAXART. Aragón, who is from Oaxaca, Mexico, takes on the subject of narco-trafficking in a way that is subtle and simple.  The solitary landscapes, which reoccur in his vidoes, indirectly portray the cruelty of these impoverished narco-agricultural regions. The exhibition consists of a video-trilogy.  In Efectos de Familia, several screens show kids, or chiquinarcos (children recruited by the cartel) in what seem like theatrical staged maquettes.  The kids are playfully imitating what the narco does to his victims.  In one video, a little boy stands in the middle of a desolate, dusty landscape.  A truck goes around him in a circle creating a huge dirt cloud, which is meant to suffocate;  this act reveals an actual form of torture.  In a second video, two young boys imitate a violent encounter between two enemies; one boy opens the truck door and pretends to shoot a gun, the other boy pretends to get shot over and over.  There is no blood, no bullets just two kids mimicking a common spectacle.  In another video a boy’s feet are buried in the sand.  He stands in the middle of a deserted, dirt road.  A truck’s lights blind as it then races toward him, in what looks like a game of chicken.  The truck violently...

La vieja y la nueva generación: Ernesto de la Loza in Estrada Courts, new mural in Venice, Os Gemeos, and Fabian Debora at Homegirl Cafe

A few weeks ago in Boyle Heights, Ernesto de la Loza unveiled his restored mural Organic Simulus on one of the lucky buildings of Estrada Courts.  In the audience were artists, iconic muralists, activists, historians, journalists, residents and community members.  Everyone was mesmerized by de la Loza’s flowing landscape of organic forms and colors, once again bright and energetic after withering away for 37 years.  Two months ago de la Loza started the restoration process sponsored by Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (MCLA) and Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). Ernesto’s sister, artist Sandra de la Loza (who you might remember from the PST show Mural Remix at LACMA) , presented her older brother at the unveiling.  She reminisced and reminded the crowd that she was only seven years old when this mural was painted.  She said that her brother painted Organic Stimulus because he wanted to give balance to the neighborhood.  During his speech, de la Loza revealed that he felt like his career was just beginning when he was working on this mural and exclaimed, “Everyone should follow their dreams because dreams do come true.” Estrada Courts is not just a low-income housing project but also “an open-air museum with approximately 54 surviving murals, many of them reflecting the culture and traditions of the area.  This is the place that gave birth to the 1970s Chicano Mural Art Movement”, said MCLA’s executive director Isabel Rojas-Williams.  It is amazing to walk around and look at all of these murals while listening to them speak out to the residents of the neighborhood. Many of these murals are trying...

Zack Paul in SB; Abstraction at MOLAA: Lisa, Fernández and Maggi; Ryan Perez’s Arrival; Juan Martin del Campo Jr. in “Finds! The Unusual Object”

There is so much art making going on in Los Angeles that sometimes it’s easy to forget that our neighbors just next door are also making some very good art.  I recently attended two shows in Santa Barbara featuring the work by Argentine painter Zack Paul.  His first solo-show Inside Out is now on exhibit at Sullivan Goss in downtown SB.  Paul, who has been living in the US for ten years, has clearly been influenced by the Southern Californian sunshine.  As you enter the gallery space, the first thing you will notice is the rich vocabulary of color, lines and space in his abstract paintings.  His palette is inspired by the Pacific Ocean’s marine life; sand, ocean, kelp, rocks, moss, oxide, coral, stones, seaweed also appear in the paintings titles.  Paul explained how he mixes these colors with man made architectural objects, creating an interesting dialogue and relationship.   Within these hard-edged paintings, ideas are repeated, as are his colors, systems and forms. Paul explained that he takes photographs of complicated architectural shapes and forms, redraws them and then brings out the natural element using his carefully selected colors.  Then the magic begins: There is an illusion of depth as he plays with the ambiguity of three-dimensionality and then makes us begin to wonder if the constructions are sheltering or inhibiting.  The paintings are double edged and inside out.  In the series Commonplace Interior Shapes, Exterior Colors (No. 1-3) he has taken a photograph of the interior of his house and of a corner which he often looks at in his studio. In these paintings, routine and repetition are...