Exploring Boundaries with HERE – A Group Show at LAMAG
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery
through January 6, 2019
By Patrick Quinn
The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery has a history of mounting group shows that are conceptually challenging and visually satisfying. The themes are usually socially relevant, as is the case with the current show entitled HERE. As defined in the press statement, this is a group exhibition examining the shifting physical and geographical boundaries along with conceptual and imagined boundaries, and boundlessness, in and around Los Angeles.
One gets the impression that while the artists may have been unified by that definition, they weren’t tethered or bound to it. Show Curator Steven Wong has allowed the artists to explore the sand box.
The first piece, encountered at the entrance, sets the tone for how those boundaries will be explored. Commissioned specifically for this show, artist Iris Yirei Hu has created Lessons from Wise Woman (Tongva Elder Julia Bogany), Grandmother Oak Tree, and Hands. The patchwork quilt combines elements of both the artist’s Japanese-American heritage and the Tongva Tribe which were the original inhabitants of the San Gabriel Valley where she grew up. Near the center of the quilt is a painted portrait of Tongvan Elder Julia Bogany who mentored the artist.
Also commissioned for this exhibition are three new paintings by local artist Henry Taylor. Each one appears as a snapshot of life in South Central L.A. Batman is a portrait of Greg “Batman” Davis who was one of the founding members of the Crips street gang. His face reveals little; perhaps some mild concern, but it is certainly not threatening. Ironically, he could be observing the actions in the next painting, of two white police officers arresting a black man on the street.
The boundary between races has been mapped out in a more literal fashion by two different artists. Mapa de Los Angeles – 21 Killed by Police by Sandy Rodriguez calls out the twenty-one locations of LAPD shootings in the past year. With If the New World were mine and Map of Alta California, Umar Rashid has recreated 18th century parchment maps that are a re-imaging of the State’s colonial past.
Other artists such as Patrick Martinez and Renée Petropoulos have captured specific fragments of their neighborhood’s daily environment. Martinez’s mixed-media piece Nothing is up but the rent could have been assembled from any building in the 213-area code.
At each end of the gallery are two fascinating installations that both examine the tension between L.A.’s urban development and its natural landscape. Fran Siegel was inspired by the massive bridges that dominate the Long Beach Harbor area. Whereas Mario Ybarra focuses on the giant tall cranes in the same neighborhood. Both artists also see the beauty in these steel structures, even as the work they do is in direct conflict with the terrain around them.
Heimir Bjorgulfsson also looks at that conflict, but in his photo collages, rubble and brick conflict with mountains and desert.
Two simple but effective video installations find bittersweet humor in neighborhood boundaries. The Mural in my head is Leaking Something into the Air I Breath has a single shot of a residential wall with a Tupac Shakur poem painted on the wall. The poem is tagged on top of a mural of roses which seem to breathe. Artist Gloria Galvez probes the contradiction of art versus defacement. Annetta Kapon captures the most literal boundary with her two-minute video short The Line Between Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. The camera wanders down the center of a street that has recently been newly paved on just the one side leaving the Los Angeles side cracked and worn.
HERE explores that center line, cracks and all, with a powerful group show that is well worth a visit.
Other artists featured in the show include Sandra de la Loza, Gajin Fujita, Jane C. Mi, Alison O’Daniel, Nancy Popp, Anna Sew Hoy, and Mario Ybarra Jr.
HERE is on view through January 6, 2019
Gallery Hours are Thursday – Sunday 11- 4 PM
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) is located at 4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A. CA 90027
For more info – https://www.lamag.org/