While the City of Los Angeles stumbles along an ordinance process to find direction for its public art, Metro has been rolling along. The next list of artists commissioned by Metro was recently introduced, and from that selection of eight artists -- selected from 400 applicants -- is a varied list of proposals and concepts for public art that will be installed on Phase 2 of the Expo Line as part of a provision to commit .5 percent of its construction budget to make the rail system a visual engagement between people and place.
Not unlike Phase 1, the concepts are designed to make station platforms engaging to pedestrians, rail commuters, and passengers and drivers in vehicles, says Zipporah Yamamoto, Creative Services Manager for Metro. Phase 2 of the Expo Line will feature a total of ninety-four art panels, with the installations ranging from 8 to 24 art panels per station, using glass mosaic, ceramic mosaic, and porcelain tiles fabricated for durability. The Colorado and 4th Street terminus station will host a sculpture by artist Walter Hood.
They don't have the theatrical scale of some Gold Line markers, like the basket-as-artifact symbolism in the Gold Line Bridge by Andrew Leicester, or Mariachi Plaza Station's "El Nino Perdido" by Alejandro de la Loza, or even most of stations along the Red and Purple lines, making the new pieces seem diminutive in comparison. It's not budget cuts as much as limited room. ""It's about limited real estate," said Yamamoto. "There isn't space for large scale works at most of the Expo Line stations."
The works are designed to be aesthetic links to the immediate neighborhoods that have a platform station. The ink on the artist's contracts isn't dry, but the proposals will be soon be introduced.
There cannot be a full review of public art until its installed, but based on the Phase 1 installation, the city is growing a sophisticated transportation ethos. Public art in stations is not the destination. The smaller works become markers along a journey that extends to a series of destinations to other city neighborhoods. During the first few impressions, there may be curiosity to the meaning of the works, and that can have locals and visitors feel like they are discovering a brand new city.
I Am Los Angeles is a video portrait series created by journalist and filmmaker Joris Debeij, showcasing the unique people and their ideas that make L.A. what it is. KCET Departures will be featuring these videos as part of our continuing coverage of the shifting cultures of Los Angeles.
You might have seen him and his crew riding around L.A. The bike he's riding may seem just like any other, but wait till you see what Dylan Hurst can do on his bike. And we're not just talking about riding with no hands. Dylan is a trick biker who pulls off crazy stunts in the streets of L.A. every day.
Fish and Chips -- that's what they call this London-born rider in the fairly new sport of fixed-gear trick cycling. "Its insane to see how fast this sport is growing and it's not a cheap sport. Kids are begging their parents to give them a brand new bike for Christmas." The popularity of fixed-gear trick cycling is beginning to rival what skateboarding was in the '70s. It's a fast-moving sport; kids are constantly coming up with new tricks, styles, and stunts and manufactures are scrambling to keep up.
The sport is gaining prominence through professional events all over the country, and there are riders getting sponsors. But for Dylan "Fish and Chips", it is a lot about having fun, riding the streets with friends and respecting the relative talent of others in the sport. He feels at home on the streets of L.A., which might seem crazy to a lot of people who have been in the city's traffic!
Originally published on I Am Los Angeles.
Check out more video portraits at I Am Los Angeles.
When I first visited Los Angeles, exploring neighborhoods quickly became one of my favorite pastimes. Then unencumbered with an occupation, I spent many of my days in various communities, collecting souvenirs as if vacationing abroad. Even though I've now made Los Angeles my home for over a decade, I still find that there is no end to new discoveries, even in my own neighborhood, Silver Lake, where I've resided my entire time here. Though Los Angeles is often stereotyped as the ultimate car city, it once boasted the largest network of interurban rail, and there are numerous abandoned rail paths that have become, in many cases, hidden greenways.
The other day a friend (and her baby and dog) and I made plans to explore and burn calories on some of Silver Lake's public stairways. In Silver Lake (as well as other hilly communities like Echo Park, Elysian Heights, Franklin Hills, Highland Park, Hollywood, Mt. Washington, Pacific Palisades, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and El Sereno), steep hillsides are traversed by a network of concrete steps built mostly in the 1920s. We decided to begin our walk with the Waverly Stairs, which connect Waverly and Fletcher Drives.
After we made our way down the Waverly stairs we crossed Fletcher Drive and approached a hillside dotted with concrete structures. Locals sometimes refer to these mysterious orthostats as Silver Lake's Stonehenge. Over the years I've seen them utilized for various artistic means, most memorably a collection of old CRT televions painted with anti-war slogans. Despite their nickname I always doubted that ancient Beaker folk had a hand in their creation, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I learned of their true purpose.
The National Park Service (NPS) has released the Final Study Recommendations for the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study. NPS seeks to "work in a coordinated fashion, on a regional basis, to address equitable access to open space, protection of significant resources, and interpretation and education about significant resources. Existing NPS assistance programs are currently insufficient to address these needs in the study area," according to the study. "I am pleased to recommend to Congress the designation of a San Gabriel unit of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area," said Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar.
Diverse allies submitted public comments to diversify access to and support for a new recreation area in the San Gabriel watershed and mountains and the expansion of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The final study is a best practice example for park agencies to improve environmental justice, environmental quality, and public health. The proposed expansion would go a long way to ensure access to green space and better health for park poor, income poor communities.
Los Angeles has a subway. This surprises almost as many visitors as it does natives. First moving here, I only considered apartments within walking distance of a station. Even then, I sensed this criterion, all-important elsewhere, has historically meant little to Los Angeles apartment-hunters. Despite taking four or five journeys underground every week, I understand, without the sneer of the least agreeable sort of public transit booster, why many Angelenos have never boarded so much as a station escalator. The Red and Purple subway lines serve this city of 500 square miles with less than eighteen miles of track, combined. Add in the above-ground train lines and the system's total comes, as of this writing, to more like ninety miles. Too much of the time, the question of whether you can get from where you are to where you need to go by subway, or by any line to which it connects, meets with a flat "no."
I never look forward to explaining this to visitors from Europe or Asia. To whose satisfaction can I, or any Angeleno, account for why the westward Purple Line dead-ends
thirteen miles from the coast, or why the northern end of the Red Line passes through one side of Hollywood but not the other? Shortly after setting myself up in Los Angeles, I asked a friend, well-placed by day job to know about Metro matters great and small, these very questions. His response, in full: "Politics." A fair point, but whenever I return home from a trip to Osaka, Mexico City, or even Washington, D.C., I wonder where else politics has so suppressed infrastructure as essential, to my mind, as water pipes, garbage dumps, or power lines.
Thousands of poets across America are writing a poem a day this month because April is National Poetry Month. Last April I wrote two stories about the bustling landscape of poetry across Southern California. The first story covered longtime venues like A Mic & Dim Lights in Pomona, Beyond Baroque and the Talking Stick in Venice, Tia Chucha's Bookstore in Sylmar, and Tuesday Night Café in Little Tokyo. The second story highlighted places like the Rapp Saloon in Santa Monica, Redondo Poets, and Tongue and Groove in Hollywood.
A year later the story remains the same with these venues: consistently excellent poetry. Be sure to read those articles to find the diverse spaces in L.A. where poetry can be found:
This week L.A. Letters covers even more poetry venues, from the inner city to the Inland Empire, Orange County, San Gabriel Valley, Long Beach and everywhere within reach. Those missed will be covered in the coming weeks. Venue details can change often and different hosts may emerge as well, so forgive any omissions or names forgotten; there are so many readings, language events and great poets around L.A. that no one can keep track of them all. I know because I have tried.
Good Time Charlie
It all started in an ivy covered bungalow at 6665 Sunset Boulevard on May 20, 1931. The bungalow was shared by a realtor, a photographer, and the owner of the building -- a huge, jovial, high-voiced 52 year-old "businessman" by the name of Charlie Crawford. Charlie's office was in the back, and it was peculiar, with dark wood paneling covered in wires, and almost no natural light -- except that which found its way through a steel mesh covered skylight. Four telephones sat on a giant desk, along with a panic button. The doors were outfitted with special locks and steel bars and a large safe sat against one wall.
Around 4:30pm shots rang out. A few moments later, a dapper man in a double breasted suit walked calmly out the side door and got into a car where a bejeweled blonde woman was waiting. Inside, Charlie Crawford laid clinging to life. The other victim, Herbert Spencer, was already dead. Charlie was rushed to the Georgia Street Hospital, where his wife Ella, a slight and lovely woman with blonde hair and melancholy blue eyes, rushed through the halls with a bible in her hands, demanding to see her husband.
In the operating theater, an LAPD detective asked Charlie who had shot him. Charlie simply smiled and said "I don't know, ask Spencer." After being pressed further he smiled one last time, and slipped into unconsciousness. He had been true to his code to the last. Because Charlie wasn't a "businessman" or a "real estate agent" or a "politician," as the skittish newspapers frequently labeled him. And the 30-something woman who now stood perfectly still over his corpse, as tears rolled down her face, wasn't simply a privileged housewife, formerly Ms. Oddessa Ella Weding of Minnapolis, who lived at 929 Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills. She was the wife of the man who had once ruled the Los Angeles underworld, known to all of the Southland as "the gray wolf of Spring Street."
With Los Angeles street artists embracing the use of traditional murals to engage public spaces, it gives Writing on the Wall a good reason to look closely at individual works in Southern California. As we have seen, how a mural came to be, or how an artist approaches a space, adds backstory to a wall and its surroundings.
When one takes a closer look at murals through a photograph, it shows how they share space with the immediate environment -- and begins to resemble early 20th century photo-montage collage. The installation becomes an assemblage.
Or in the case of street art, the wall as random public space takes on a major characteristic of visual fragments within a collage. It becomes a found object.
"It was a peculiar and visionary time, those years after World War II to which all the Malls and Towns and dales stand as climate controlled monuments," reflected Joan Didion in 1979. "The frontier had been reinvented, and its shape was the subdivision, that new free land on which all settlers could recast their lives tabla rosa," she asserted, acknowledging that for a period the suburb, its accoutrements, and its architects basked in one "perishable moment" as the American dream seemed within reach of every [white] man and woman. Didion argued F.H.A. policies, postwar consumerism, and suburbia's "enigmatic glamour" combined to create "something out of nothing."1
Few institutions symbolize both the promise and peril of suburban life like malls; few regions contributed as much to its development and to a lesser extent its evolution than Southern California.
Growing out of earlier retail innovations -- drive-in markets and supermarkets -- the shopping mall experienced its first period of development beginning in the mid 1930s and extending into the mid 1940s. While the initial developmental phase of shopping malls was limited, it did spread nationally: New York, Washington, Detroit, and Portland, Oregon all contributed to its changing shape. However, Los Angeles' mild weather, "established patterns of outdoor activity," and agglomeration of "avant-garde" designers, notes retail historian Richard Longstreth, made it a prime location for expansion and a breeding ground for an unmatched array of diverse examples with which to experiment.2
Three examples confirm Southern California's critical role in the mall's early formation: the Broadway Crenshaw Center, the Valley Center, and San Diego's Linda Vista Shopping Center.