Possibilities in a Pandemic
Helms Design Center, Culver City
through July 2021
Written by Lorraine Heitzman
Projecting Possibilities, a temporary showcase for artists at the Helms Bakery building in Culver City, has been providing sustenance and entertainment during the pandemic for artists, pedestrians, and commuters alike. Angela Anthony, who designed and curated the project to support artists and the community, extended an opportunity to painters, poets, photographers, textile artists and filmmakers to create video installations utilizing the storefront windows of the Helms Design Center. Hosted jointly by the Helms Bakery District and the Culver City Arts Foundation, the project will ultimately feature 52 artists over the course of a year, each artist having a week to reimagine their work in this unique format tailored to the times.
Thus far, about halfway into the project, a diverse selection of artists has had their work projected out onto Washington Boulevard. The video installation has proven to be a flexible platform for a broad spectrum of work, and the approaches to the medium vary greatly amongst the participants. There have been projections that were delightfully painterly and expressive, and others that took on social concerns in a photojournalistic manner. Artists employed movement, too, both linear motions and ones that conjured the illusion of depth. Regardless of the subject and original medium, the most impactful projects effectively calculated perspective, scale, visibility and editing in respect to the vantage point of the street.
A few artists utilized the existing grid of the architectural elements to give structure to their projections, while others ignored the physical construct completely. Franklin Londin, a designer and 3d photographer, played off the grid to great advantage. Using the existing doors as a guide and inspiration, Londin projected doors opening onto fantastical realms, thereby integrating the existing with imaginary spaces. Architect Mandy Palasik’s video bypassed the framing to a large degree with images that moved across the windows laterally, creating a melancholy mood to match the passing landscape. In both cases, Londin and Palasik captivated the viewer, taking us along for the ride by activating the experience with movement.
Sarajo Frieden took a somewhat different approach, but one that was equally imaginative. An artist known for her joyful and energetic paintings, Frieden kept her imagery bold and moving. The luminosity of the medium and the larger scale particularly enhanced her richly colored and pattern dense abstractions in a way that gave new life to her works on paper. In addition, consideration towards the timing of stationery images was also well conceived, so that the tempo of successive images added up to a beautifully integrated work, maximizing the potential of the video project and creating a super bloom on the nighttime desert of a Culver City street.
Leah Shane Dixon and Robert Soffian each projected works of very expressive paintings and collages. Dixon’s full-framed images were immersive and captivating, using bold palettes and gestural brushwork, while Soffian conjured myths and folkloric narratives into his lyrical work, revealing his deep connection to the theatre. Heather Lowe, an artist best known for her poetic lenticular photography, initiated a collaboration with other artists that tipped its hat to John Cage and the role of chance in creative pursuits. Harnessing the pandemic’s medium of choice, Zoom, Lowe’s project resulted in an artful experience for her audience as well as a chance for the participants to connect during a time of isolation. Noé Montes is a photographer with a social justice practice and commitment to empowering those he documents. For Projecting Possibilities, he photographed members of various underserved communities and made their portraits larger than life, taking on social and political issues from a sympathetic perspective. The straightforward approach was disarming and captivating in light of our current vulnerabilities.
Participating artists through 2020: Amabelle Aguiluz, Emma Akmakdjian, Isabel Beavers, Maria Björkdahl, Alexandra Carter, Andrew Chittenden, Leah Shane Dixon, Sarajo Frieden, Iona Green, Richelle Gribble, INKSAP, Ariel Lee, Franklin Londin, Heather Lowe, Alyssa Mannis, Noé Montes, Nancy Nimoy, Not Real Art, Mandy Palasik, Allegra Samp, Ryan Schude, Victoria Sebanz, Aneesa Shami, Robert Soffian, Alexey Steele, Sarah Stone, Kayla Sweet-Newhouse, Liberty Worth
Helms Design Center
8745 Washington Blvd. Culver City, 90232