Artists join Occupy LA movement at City Hall
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Art and political protest have historically gone hand in hand, each feeding off the anger, the idealism and the creativity of the other. Occupy LA, the grass-roots movement now entering its third week in downtown, is no exception.
Along the green of City Hall, hundreds of examples of protest art are on display, including posters decrying economic inequality and street art targeting politicians of both parties. The works are mostly spontaneous and rudimentary, created by amateur artists in the heat of the moment. But a number of professional artists of various genres are also lending their voices to the movement.
‘What’s going on here is beyond the state level or national level. It’s on a worldwide level,’ said Will Palomares, an L.A. artist who is creating a series of paintings in a spot near City Hall. ‘It’s about resources spent on the wrong things, like war.’
One of Palomares’ paintings shows a blue planet with its polar ice cap replaced by an eye-like image. ‘Sometimes people worry about Big Brother. But we should worry about big mother -- Mother Earth.’
Occupy LA, which is part of the larger ‘Occupy’ movement in cities around the world, is centered mostly around City Hall, but protesters have also made their presence known at other points in downtown, including a Bank of America building. Organizers are advocating for broad economic and political reform, with an emphasis on the financial sector’s power in Washington.
On Sunday afternoon, a group of theater artists are scheduled to stage a free performance of Clifford Odets’ pro-labor drama ‘Waiting for Lefty’ on the steps of City Hall. The production comes from the Art of Acting Studio, which is the L.A. branch of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York.
‘When we read the play, it felt it was parallel to what was happening today,’ said Johnny Yoder, an actor in the production and the administrative director of the school. He said the idea to stage the play came from a similar but unrelated production in Chicago. ‘These people are just trying to have a regular life. That’s why we want to do it -- to show our support for their fight for the American dream.’
Odets’ ‘Waiting for Lefty,’ written in 1935, tells the story of a group of cab drivers who are organizing to strike.
Some of the protest art around City Hall is satirical in nature. A faux pumpkin patch invites visitors to carve the likenesses of various billionaires, including Eli Broad. At another spot, protesters have hung an effigy of a faceless businessman.
Art has played a significant role In other cities where the Occupy movement has taken hold. In New York, protest art inspired by Occupy Wall Street has been displayed at a temporary exhibition titled ‘No Comment’ at the JP Morgan building in the financial district. (Artist Shepard Fairey has contributed a poster to one of the New York events.)
In L.A., some artists are helping protest organizers with logistical work. A Long Beach artist who identified himself only as Sorin said that he was delivering water to protesters in downtown with the help of his 7-year-old son.
The artist was also wheeling around one of his paintings that depicts a young child in front of a bomb explosion, with the words ‘Daddy, what does ‘collateral damage’ mean?’
‘That euphemism means everything to innocents murdered,’ said the artist, adding that he is fighting for broad ‘systemic change’ in the political system.
-- David Ng
Photos, from top: Will Palomares’ painting near City Hall; the artist Sorin with his painting on Spring Street. Credit: David Ng / Los Angeles Times