Tag Archives: dtla

Here Comes the Neigborhood: Mural of Basquiat Ups Real Estate Values in Hip Gentrifying Hood

There’s a pattern of tell-tale signs that indicate that a once-undesireable neighborhood is undergoing gentrification. One of these signs is the changing nature of street art, and, more tellingly, the arrival of public art.

Although street art is kind of constant throughout the gentrification process, it’s usually in abundance in the neighborhood pre-gentrification and continues to pop up more frequently and blossom as the process unfolds. What’s different over time is the type of street art and its content and how it changes as the neighborhood gentrifies.

As the process plays out and rents and condos become more expensive, the street art becomes “neater,” bigger, less controversial, broader in appeal, and more referential of the established traditional post-modern and contemporary art canon.

More importantly, the street art you see starts to be commissioned rather than illicit. Galleries pop up. Art “events” appear. There’s public art. There are bigger and bigger murals. The “street art” at this stage is increasingly really officially developer-approved mural work by established street art figures and established non-street artists instead of “guerilla” artworks painted in the dark of night. 

The mural pictured here in the Los Angeles Arts District depicting the late, great artist Jean-Michel Basquiat seems to fall somewhere in between the official and unofficial, a signpost somewhere in the middle of the gentrification-process spectrum. In and of itself, it is not significantly remarkable. In the context of the streets, it’s awesome, it’s cool, and will add to the area’s cachet for would be home buyers and investors who love it and want to tap into the “cool” of the Arts District.

The artwork is adding value. Rents will go up — ARE going up — and fast!  (In fact, since you started reading this, the average monthly listing price on a 400 square-foot studio apartment in the area has probably increased by $2,416.39, to the penny.)

The painting is by the very talented artist Alex Ali Gonzalez, and it’s self-referential for the art world and also a kind of visual, symbolic creative cue, an homage to an important beloved artist and what that artist represents — Basquiat started out by creating graffiti and street art in what at the time were the derelict streets of downtown Manhattan, an area of New York City that is now completely gentrified and unaffordable for most people.

Basquiat symbolizes something for both the struggling young artist being priced out of the Arts District and to the property developer turning a textile warehouse or widget factory into multi-million dollar condos affordable by only the wealthy, who it has been observed are often people who are not professionally creative and often lack imagination in a way that is inversely proportional to their wealth.

Neighborhoods pass through phases of gentrification, from pre- and “pioneer” phases through to “early hipster,” “late hipster” and “second,” “third,” “fourth” waves, etc., and finally “establishment” phase. (You’ll know the last phase because hipsters are no longer moving to the neighborhood and there’s at least one condo with its own private elevator.)

The Arts District of Los Angeles, which is really the industrial area that’s psychologically an extension of Downtown LA (DTLA) is not at the establishment phase of gentrification, but it’s very close, or rather at least pockets of it are really close. Other areas, not so much. It’s a vast area that could easily be divided up in to two or three distinct neighborhoods.

But there’s more and more large-to-epic scale commissioned street art. Look for more images of the Basquiats and Warhols and others of the artworld Pantheon in the future and fewer “Kook Streets” and “Wrdsmths” and “Banksys” (although, given the monetary and cultural value of a Banksy artwork at this point, it would actually be a welcome addition even on an expensive DTLA condo, maybe it would be painted inside that private elevator.) 

Street Art Begs Passersby to “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” – We Disagree!

On the surface, the sentiment seems straightforward, sensible and pleasantly righteous enough: “Stop making stupid people famous.”

That sounds like a great idea. After almost two decades of Hiltons, Karadashians, a Richie, assorted “House Wives of …” and bearded redneck dynasties AND Honey Boo Boo, as well as countless reality shows of the type that require participants to compete not on vocational skill, but on guile, personality and the whims of flaky group politics, well, we’ve easily seen a lot of stupid people made famous.

And it seems just plain wrong that stupid people should be famous, that idiocy and narcissism, and bad behavior should be rewarded with the financial spoils and celebrity that most hard-working people will never even get close to in their lifetimes, even if they aspire to it.

So the sentiment to stop making stupid people famous is well-placed and understandable.

But we’re going to disagree.

Making stupid people famous is an industry and it’s not going to stop in the foreseeable future, not until people (audiences) lose interest in watching stupid people. It’s the watching of them that makes them famous. Yes, they may be stupid and undeserving and crude and base, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interesting. In fact, they can be very interesting. #sad.

At minimum, in the lowest-common denominator way, stupid people doing stupid things on TV is very entertaining. Packaged the right way, a lot of people will want to witness all the above variations of stupid-famous-people behavior (what we refer to as “SFP bevavior”).

This entertainment just can’t be “created” in the same way as a TV comedy or drama is. Though the set-ups, scripting and scenes may be planned ahead of time by a cadre of writers and producers, and reality TV shows are full-scale “productions,” and though reality TV stars are playing to — or are at least aware of — the camera, their behavior, even when easily predictable, is unscripted and often hammy and this can be fascinating, entertaining, cringe-worthy, amusing, laughable, intriguing, offensive and simultaneously all of above rolled into one. Because they’re not actors and because they’re not “acting.” And maybe because they’re a little stupid.

The sentiment  and argument doesn’t just apply to reality TV stars, of course, but to others in the industrial-entertainment-media complex: Super models, film and television actors, musicians, politicians. Not all, not most, but a damn lot.

Takeaway: We need somebody to unassailably, righteously roll our eyes at and laugh at, somebody who is a deserving target, and somebody we can point to as a cautionary tale and as a teachable example of how not to be, how not to be an intelligent, decent human being.

Full disclosure: We once appear on a very popular mid-2000s reality TV show with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie called “The Simple Life 2: Interns.” We appear on camera with these stars for less than 15 seconds.

 

Shepard Fairey Does Ronald Reagan

The ever-gentrifying Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles is home to lots of large-scale street art, including this classic Shepard Fairey politically-tinged mural on Alameda Street behind the Angel City Brewery. The artwork depicts the late U.S. president Ronald Reagan holding a sign that says “Legislative influence for sale.” Its message — and politically expressive art in general — strongly resonates in the current American political climate.

Entrance to MOCA / Geffen Contemporary 

We’re not religious. But museums are our cathedrals, our churches and temples, our shrines. MoMA may be the modern art world’s Vatican, but in terms of pure open space, MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles comes closest to a giant cathedral like Notre Dame with its massive, cavernous structure. We’re not saying that this museum is equivalent to Notre Dame as far as degree of architectural achievement and historical significance. We’re saying that it is a big fucking space and one that invites reflection and a kind of awe.

The Geffen was kind of a happy accident. The building wasn’t purpose built to be a contemporary art museum. The structure is in LIttle Tokyo in Downtown LA and was originally built in the 1940s for the city as a warehouse and LA Police Department garage accommodating hundreds of vehicles. At the time, MoCA’s use of the space was purely practical.

While the main landmark MoCA branch was being built on nearby Grand Avenue in the early 1980s, the warehouse/garage in Little Tokyo was used as a temporary exhibition space dubbed the “Temporary Contemporary.” Its purpose was to host art shows until construction of the new main MoCA would be completed. The acquisition of the building made sense. The Temporary Contemporary was a success.

It was repurposed as a permanent exhibition space and extension of MoCA. Architect Frank Gehry led the effort. The Geffen’s location is walking distance to the main MoCA location in Downtown LA, and the former LAPD garage offers the kind of space that allows for sprawling exhibitions and epic, large-scale sculptural artworks and installations that might be more diffciult or impossible to mount in other museums. 

Doug Aitken’s Glowing Pay Phone at MOCA … Los Angeles

This glowing, LED-illuminated sculpture of an old-school pay phone is by artist Doug Aitken. It’s titled “Twilight,” and it’s absolutely sublime. The artwork is one of dozens upon dozens of works by Aitken currently on view as part of his “Electric Earth” retrospective at MOCA Los Angeles. The exhibition is a must see. “Twilight” itself is an evocative object. The resin-cast sculpture generates a soft, cool light that beckons like a visual siren from the far end of a cavernous side gallery within MOCA’s gargantuan architectural footprint. It stands mysterious and totemic like a forgotten relic from the time before cellphones were ubiquitous, infused with a strange loneliness.

Street Art at Zinc … Arts District, Los Angeles

Black-and-white photo-realistic portraits on the exterior wall of Zinc Cafe, near Willow and Mateo streets in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. These artworks are part of a series that run along the entire wall. The area has become a bit of a mecca for street art — and art in general — in recent years amid the rapid gentrification of the area and the growth in the number of entertainment production companies that have set up offices in the neighborhood.