LOS ANGELES — When the collective Durden and Ray presented We Are Here / Here We Are on May 16, the street landscape of Los Angeles looked decidedly different than it has in the weeks since the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Empty of traffic (and not yet full of protesters), the world felt surreal enough with only a global pandemic at the forefront of our minds. Still, even without the knowledge of what was to come, the strangeness of the lack of cars in a city almost defined by them makes an eerily calm setting for the exhibition’s diverse collection of artworks.
Gathered together under the premise of “our innate desire for connectivity through sensation,” some of the artworks on display reflect just that. Andrew Phillip Cortes’s “Para el Barrio (For the Neighborhood)” (2020), for instance, takes a defunct Payphone, a form of telecommunication some may be surprised to learn is still in active use, and covers it with a tactile mosaic of glass, mirror, and paint. Cortes points to our collective ability to transmute the aesthetics of our communal environment — beautifying it for own sakes.
Another artist, Jaklin Romine, uses the stay-at-home orders as a backdrop to reflect on the everyday reality of disabled people in her ongoing performance piece ACCESS DENIED. For the piece, Romine charts multiple art world locations she cannot go to because of their inaccessibility to wheelchair users like herself and invites viewers to visit these locales. In doing so, the viewer becomes part of the artwork in the sense that they are, albeit temporarily, also denied access to them, acting as a proxy for Romine’s experience as they use their own bodies as an extension of hers.
Other artworks have adapted in reaction to the protests of police brutality and systemic racism. Brenna and Nancy Ivanhoe’s “behind under around” (2020) showcases a vivid collection of paintings both discrete from and incorporated into the home’s architecture that reflect the beauty of the surrounding garden. Normally this would present as a relatively apolitical artwork save for the fact that the artists have added a “Black Lives Matter” sign to the yard, voicing their support.
Further east, Makenzie Goodman and Adam Stacey’s “A Shrine to the Old West” is almost indistinguishable from the actual trash that surrounds it, a loaded context for the framed portrait of John Wayne that serves as the piece’s centerpiece. Wayne, an icon of American masculinity, Western expansion, and old Hollywood, famously stated his alliance with white supremacist ideology in a 1971 Playboy interview. The “fallen shrine” begs the question: Is Wayne and the ideologies he represents reflected upon with nostalgia or condemnation in the hearts and minds of American citizens? If our current state of policing and protest is any indication, it seems the answer is both.
We Are Here / Here We Are continues through Saturday, June 20 (dawn to dusk every day, unless otherwise noted) at various locations around Los Angeles County.
Curator La Tanya S. Autry shares a set of crucial questions she considers when curating images of anti-Black violence.
Crys Yin’s subject is grief, which, for all that takes place in public, is largely a private matter.
The first lecture is on the relationship between early portrait photography and diverse notions of US identity during the Gilded Age. Register to attend on January 25.
With her clay relief sculptures, Brie Ruais probes the exit wound and its deep psychological implications.
In Doomscrolling, Rob Swainston and Zorawar Sidhu assume the task Walter Benjamin set for the articulation of history — to “seize hold of the past as it flashes up at a moment of danger.”
Part of the university’s Artists on the Future series pairing renowned artists with cultural thought leaders, this online event is free and open to the public.
When we honor King publicly, as many in the art circle did on Monday, we use these moments to do more than just remember and pay tribute.
A study that reexamined Homo sapiens fossils found our species is 30,000 years older than previously believed.
As much as I appreciate the collective’s culture jamming initiatives, I don’t know that their putative premise ever bears meaningful fruit.
The banana’s dominance and ubiquity has had serious and far-reaching implications for the region, engendering exploitative labor systems, climate change, and migration.
Charles Dellheim’s study tells the tale of a small group of Jewish art dealers and collectors who played a key role in the changing art world of the 19th and 20th centuries.