Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery declares “Ours is a City of Writers”

"Ours Is A City Of Writers" at LAMAG. Photo Credit Patrick Quinn.
“Ours Is A City Of Writers” at LAMAG. Photo Credit Patrick Quinn.

Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery declares “Ours is a City of Writers”

By Patrick Quinn

Through March 26th


Los Angeles may not have the esteemed literary pedigree that is ascribed to older cities such as New York, London, or Dublin.  Our most notable authors are perhaps too rough around the edges like Bukowski or too obscure like John Fante.  Some would say the only style of literature that Angelinos have embraced is the Screenplay.  But ask anyone who has spent time in a UCLA Extension class or a reading at the Last Bookstore or using the WiFi at Swork Coffee in Eagle Rock, and they will tell you, ours is a city of writers. That same phrase is the title of a new group show at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.  Local writers and artists were invited to collaborate for this exhibit, but not in the usual sense.

The phrase “exquisite corpse” is invoked in the Gallery’s press release.  This approach was invented by the Surrealist art movement in the early 1900’s.  It was originally based on an old parlor game called Consequences.  Each player would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and then hand it to the next player for his or her contribution.  Once each sheet had been passed around the circle, they would reveal the sentence the group had created. For this show, invited writers have selected artists to collaborate with, and, likewise, invited artists have selected writers.  In some cases writers produced new texts in response to their artist-collaborators’ work. In others, artists took on the function of writers, displaying materials not initially intended to be art objects. The work that this particular parlor game has produced is stimulating, intriguing, and fun.

The gallery’s press release includes one line that best captures the essence of the show: “Taken together, the personal connections exhibited in these works trace threads of belonging in Los Angeles, communities that preexist and survive the project, and allegiances that have come to fuller form within it.”

The City of Angels is very much a presence in this show.  Scott Benzel’s installation is equally severe and theatrical like the set of an old 1980’s public access cable show.  Even the titles of the lurid paperbacks underline the connection to L.A.  Kim Schoen’s Dummy 9052 and Alison O’Daniel & Claire de Dobay Rifelj installation The Tuba Thieves invoke the props and facades you’d see while on the tram tour at Universal Studios.  The white columns that make up Katie Grinnan’s 5 Seconds of Dreaming conjure up images of power line towers, their stark silhouettes at sunset as much a movie cliché as palm trees and the Hollywood sign.

The Surrealist movement grew to prominence in Paris during the 1920’s.  Decades later, Williams Burroughs was highly influenced by Surrealism as well as Dadaism.  Working with fellow writer Brion Gysin, he developed the cut-up technique wherein he would cut up newspaper articles as well as his own writing and rearrange them into new work.  As Burroughs put it, “when you cut into the present the future leaks out”.

One can see a little bit of the future on display right now at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

Gina Osterloh. Tell Me What To Do (Results may vary). "Ours Is A City Of Writers" at LAMAG. Photo Credit Patrick Quinn.
Gina Osterloh. Tell Me What To Do (Results may vary). “Ours Is A City Of Writers” at LAMAG. Photo Credit Patrick Quinn.

Ours is a City of Writers is open through March 26th.  The show was organized by Suzanne Hudson, Simon Leung and James Nisbet.  An online catalog and companion to the exhibition, containing short texts and more information, is located at-http://www.oursisacityofwriters.net/

Artists listed in bold have work on view at LAMAG.

Participants include: Kelly Akashi, Scott Benzel, Andrew Berardini, Dan Bustillo, Dori Carter, Kabir Carter, Sylvia Chivaratanond, Neha ChoksiSrijon Chowdhury,  Ginny CookKaron DavisAntonio Trecel Diaz, Travis Diehl, Michelle Dizon, David Evans Frantz, Adam FeldmethPatricia FernandezKathryn Garcia, Ramón García, Amy Gerstler, Natalie Graham, Katie Grinnan, Raquel Gutiérrez, Michael Ned Holte, Douglas Kearney,  Gelare Khoshgozaran, Kristina Kite, Alex KleinNick KramerYoung, Joon Kwak. Viet Le, Sarah, Lehrer-Graiwer, Robin Coste Lewis, Candice Lin, Lauren Mackler, Dylan Mira, Sharon Mizota, Sohrab Mohebbi, Kavior Moon, Fred MotenAlison O’DanielMichael O’Malley, Susanna Newbury, Gina Osterloh, Hannah Sanghee Park, Anthony Pearson, Litia PertaVanessa Place, Selene Preciado, Claire Rifelj, Miller Robinson, Judith Rodenbeck, Kim Schoen, Nizan Shaked, David Shook, Susan Silton, Virginia Solomon, Jenni Sorkin, Jacob Stewart-Halevy, John Tain, Anuradha VikramTerry Wolverton, Suné Woods, and Kim Ye.

LAMAG is located at Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027.

For more information, go to http://www.lamag.org/ or call (323) 644-6269

The gallery is open Thursday through Sunday, Noon to 5:00pm.

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