The billboard as an intruder on visual air space spurs debate, even before street art is affixed to it. Yet, the captive audiences stuck in cars have welcomed the occasional change of message from advertising to rebellion.
Equipped with hash tags in its branding, #artsharela is the site and namesake for the latest project that uses commercial billboards to exhibit street art, as curated by Casey Zoltan of Known Gallery. It opens March 1 and runs through April 7.
Rick Robinson, Creative Director at MacDonald Media, helped coordinate the public art project. As a commercial and advertising media guru, and an artist living and working in and around Downtown Los Angeles, he straddles two tribes that have a history of imposing their will on each other.
To Robinson, it's nothing new for a media company to be a community arts enabler. "It's an enhancement for what billboard companies have been doing for years: connecting to a nonprofit and be part of an art component," he said.
Robinson also worked on "Public Works" with LALA Gallery's Daniel Lahoda, the 2012 round of billboard murals done by street artists, using hand-painted and printed murals on biodegradable vinyl materials.
Robinson is also connected to "How Many Billboards? Art In Stead" from 2012, a Los Angeles experiment led by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, which used 21 billboards to carry public art across the city. The exhibit was inspired by the Museum of Contemporary Art's 2001 campaign that used the billboard as museum cards identifying specific locations. Robinson did smaller art projects with individual artists -- what he calls "one-offs."
All these projects are an extension of the advertising media's commitment to public service, Robinson said, also citing non-art projects like Amber Alerts.
"The billboard companies loved it," said Robinson of "Public Works," saying there was also congratulations sent from civic leaders. The project was seen as respite from the politics of entanglements between billboard companies and street artists.
It also gave the chance for billboard companies to give street artists a legitimate platform, said Robinson, saying artists get to an age where they don't want to paint and run. "It's an entry into the mainstream."
#artsharela is not intended as damage control for the wearisome topic of the City of Los Angeles accused of offending First Amendment rights of media companies, which has silenced traditional murals until the proposed mural ordinance passes. Robinson moves past that idea, making it a debate for another time, adding that media companies consider it old news that is about to be resolved.
Instead, he focuses on reserving any conceptual abstraction of crafting persuasion for the nonprofit, ArtShareLA, which will benefit from the gate for the V.I.P. preview. ArtShareLA got the space and did the leg work, so the preview exhibition can double as a fundraiser, Robinson said.
Logistics make the art, which is usually spontaneous, as carefully planned, showing the type of work usually associated with urban decay as enhancement, in turn making the billboard change its motive for a moment.
The art will be installed on billboards around the city in March.
The exhibit also shows a change in the relationship between art and outdoor commerce. "It's been a long time coming," Robinson said. "I'm thrilled and proud to be part of this. Three years ago, if you told me there would be in collaboration with billboard companies and street artists, I'd say "no [blank] way."
"Both groups wants the same thing," Robinson said. "They want to be up."
The Seventh Letter Presents #ArtShareLA, a celebration of Street Art featuring gallery pieces & outdoor billboards from Los Angeles artists: Saber, Patrick Martinez, Rime, Victor Reyes, Pose, Sage Vaughn, Willie T, Shepard Fairey, Risk, Push, Revok, Zes, Sever, Augustine Kofie, Vizie I Opens March 1. Closes April 7 I Art Share I 801 E 4th Place LA