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URBAN ART : Everything New Is Old Again

L.A. has a bad rep for not preserving its own history; its art and culture dwell in the forever-changing present. But two new works attempt to change that by evoking the city’s past.

On the floors and walls of an L.A. Convention Center concourse are two enormous granite triptychs. One pays tribute to such Southern California landmarks as the original Brown Derby, the Central Library, Hollywood Bowl, Watts Towers, Chinese Theater and the freeway system. (The other displays such symbols of achievement as Stonehenge, an early printing press, a political convention.)

“I was interested in an artwork as a way of representing a history or at least holding on to it,” says the triptychs’ creator, L.A. native Matt Mullican. “A pictorial image holds the object even after the object disappears.”

A similar credo inspired Venice artist Barbara McCarren in her decoration of a Pershing Square bench near 5th and Hill. From thousands of antique postcards in a UCLA collection, she chose 24 for copying onto porcelain tiles. The images include Olvera Street, the Griffith Observatory, the Avalon Casino and now-vanished alligator and ostrich farms.

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“The word concept I kept in back of my head was ‘heyday,’ ” says McCarren, who also created the park’s faux earthquake fault and telescopes with historical photos. “I wanted not only to strike a remembrance of the previous heyday of Pershing Square and Los Angeles, but to indicate optimistically that it could be that way again.”


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