Cacti, like the illustrated tri-color cactus pasted onto this dumpster, dot Southern California’s natural desert landscape from Coachella to Mexico to the coastline of Santa Barbara and e eruwhete in between. So it’s fitting that street art depicting this resilient desert plant would dot the urban landscape of Los Angeles. The one on the dumpster in the pic above is in LA’s Arts District, an area that until recent gentrification was a kind of urban desert.
Like a shiny extra-terrestrial bobble tucked into the foothills above Palm Springs, “Mirage” by Los Angeles-based artist Doug Aitken is among the most striking contemporary-art experiences of 2017. It’s probably the unofficial rockstar of Desert X, an inaugural exhibition of site-specific artworks mostly in the form of installations and sculptural objects spread across the desert landscape of the Coachella Valley.
“Mirage” is a literal house of mirrors. Its loose architectural form is a single-story ranch house in a nod to the region’s traditional housing style. But it’s a ranch house with a shape augmented by contemporary touches – a skylight, a balcony, a window-less chamber.
All that architecture is just a platform for Aitken’s bold visual statement and its main feature: The mirrored surfaces of the house inside and out. The exterior walls, and interior walls and ceilings, are mirrors reflecting the desert landscape outside and multiplying the reflections inside like a silverlight echo chamber. It is not enough to look at it.
Walking through “Mirage” is to be entranced by the unceasing play of light from every angle and reflective pane and by the all the possibilities in reframing your view of the bright desert outside through the house’s many windows
In her body of work, Los Angeles artist Liz Craft has created some fascinating and evocative sculptural objects that have death and the human form at the thematic center. In fact, a couple of notable works from her that have been shown in Los Angeles museums the past year have “death” in the title. One is the powerful and darkly comic “Death Rider,” recently on view at the Hammer Museum and pictured in this post. The other exhibitied last year at LACMA is “Death of a Clown,” which you can see here.
For years we would see the wheat-pasted artwork of artist Spazmat posted around downtown New York City. His posters were unmissable. His street art was comprised of an iconic image: An illustrated portrait of a skeleton with a cell phone in its bony hand held up to the skull as if talking on the phone. The posters were usually rendered in a stark white on black. Informally dubbed as “Skull Phone,” the image suggested many things, among these the dangers of technology. We hadn’t seen Spazmat’s artwork in many years until we recently spotted one of his skull phone wheaties on a utility box along Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles. This one was printed in blue and white with a striped design, almost nautical in style and fitting for its location a few meters across the road from the ocean.
We’re posting a few pix here from the sprawling and electrifying “Jason Rhoades Installations, 1994-2006” exhibition at the massive Hauser & Wirth gallery in the Arts District near downtown Los Angeles. We visited this retrospective of Rhoades work last weekend and were blown away by his darkly beautiful and daring art installations. If you have time and are in L.A., we can’t highly recommend enough that you see this show.