The Full Dollar Collection of Contemporary Art is an initiative that aims to reconsider the tradition of public art through a collaboration between artists, sign painters, and business owners. Originated in Ecuador by artist and anthropologist X. Andrade, the project will examine how the fine art tradition intersects with the tradition of commercial hand-painted signs.
As Artist-in-Residence at Outpost for Contemporary Art in Highland Park, Los Angeles, Andrade will collaborate with Occidental College and KCET Departures in exploring the possibilities of using storefronts along York Boulevard as a canvas for engaging dialogue between artists, non-artists, and the community. Sign painters will appropriate works by fine artists, using their motifs to create works that not only will be pieces of public art, but also serve to advertise a business and become fixtures on the changing face of the community.
The Full Dollar site will feature content that will be updated several times a week. These include video interviews, guest blog posts, and a photo survey of hand painted signs across Highland Park.
The Full Dollar Collection of Contemporary Art is developed through a partnership between:
This project started towards the end of 2009 as a result of my ethnographic interests on popular culture in Ecuador, and the dialogue sustained with different cultural producers involved with graphic design, anthropology, history, and contemporary art. My first systematic approach to sign painting was during 2007, after being invited by Juan Lorenzo Barragan (a graphic designer based in Quito), to participate in a photographic survey for a book on hand-made commercial signs across the country.
While the Full Dollar Collection of Contemporary Art is housed at Outpost for Contemporary Art in Highland Park and viewed 24/7 via KCET Departures, its founder X. Andrade is miles away in Quito, Ecuador.
X had set certain parameters and expectations for the collaborative project through his art practice in Ecuador, but we had never actually talked to him or seen him face-to-face.
Outpost is part of a burgeoning art scene of galleries and artist-run spaces popping up throughout Northeast Los Angeles. It's as though decades of creative activity going on behind the closed doors of artists' studios and homes has burst wide open, providing a diversity of public outlets for art and creativity.
Photo by Alan K. Weeks.
Though the landscape of York Blvd. has changed with time, fragments of classic architecture still remain visible under the new layers of paint. For example, take a look at this photo of Avenue 50 and York Blvd. from 1954. Now look at a photo we took today of the same spot. Clearly there are many differences, but if you click on the photo and look closely at the top of both of the buildings in the right of the frame, you can see that the three pillars on the building are still present, but the tops of them have been removed. It's nice to see how the neighborhood has evolved, while still being able to spot traces of its historical character.
The Aztec theme of El Huarache Azteca extends onto the exterior of this local favorite. It's interesting to see the historical stone statue form of Aztec art translated into modern language with spray paint. The yellow and red paint on the walls gives the building a temple-like image, which is different from anything else on York Blvd.
In 2001, Los Angeles-based artist Richard Ankrom became notorious when he disguised himself as a Caltrans worker and installed a highway sign. Ankrom scaled an overhang on the 110 Freeway near the 3rd Street onramp and - without permission - installed a directional North sign and an Interstate 5 shield to indicate the 5 North Interchange two miles ahead. Caltrans had never put in any signage for the interchange and the spot was legendarily confusing to motorists. Intrigued, newspapers and media outlets pounced on the story (including KCET's own Life & Times) and Ankrom entered the annals of local art history with his act of Guerilla Public Service by blurring a line our Full Dollar project will be considering over the next few months: artist versus sign painter. Artist Ankrom credits his background as a sign painter for allowing him to so perfectly replicate existing North and Interstate 5 signage that even Caltrans had to admit his work followed existing specs. Departures asked Ankrom to tell us about the line between sign painting and artist, and he shared the following:
More than any other neighborhood in Los Angeles, Highland Park's cyclical history can be seen as a microcosm of the evolution of our city as a whole, each era creating the context from the next generation emerges.
This local business called our attention with its large scale drawings and vibrant colors. It exemplifies how the practice of sign painting and the visual arts overlap. This is one of several businesses on York which utilize the style of graffiti as a means of both artistic expression and form of advertisement. Jugos Azteca's exterior was painted by Alza Signs, a sign painter whose signature can be found printed on many walls throughout the area.
Click here to see more fruit on the walls of Jugos Azteca
Located at 1268 N. Ave 50 at York Blvd, Outpost's Highland Park headquarters is the meeting ground for this exciting collaborative exchange between visiting artist-in-residence, X. Andrade, and the project's local participants.