Oldenburg and Golden in LA

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[Ed. note: this is Part 2 of Artblog contributor James Rosenthal’s musings on his trip to Los Angeles over the holidays. You can read the Part 1 here.]

Post from James Rosenthal

LA is so familiar from myriad filmic and television images and this adds to the sense of unending discovery and comparison. I knew I was staying near a Claus Oldenburg in Santa Monica, aren’t you envious, so I located it. Forming a great Egyptian-like portal to a Frank Gehry building, the sculpture nods to the local Hollywood constructions of a similar nature and to seaside attractions. It is only two blocks from the ocean so the metaphor of looking out to sea is clear. This was in Venice actually, which, unbeknownst to me, is named so because there are canals there! I had no idea, but you have to admit, it makes sense. (image is the Oldenburg/van Bruggen Binoculars at the Gehry-designed Chiat/Day building in Venice.)

The day before I was walking along Main Street, Santa Monica when I stumbled upon a nice mural. Upon investigation, I noticed the artist’s name: our very own Jane Golden. Holy Cow! So this is where they all come from! [ed. Note Jane Golden is the head of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. She used to be a mural artist in LA and was co-founder and director of something called the Los Angeles Public Art Foundation.]

I gotta say the murals I saw in LA seem quite at home. It must be the weather and the Spanish architecture or the spread out nature of the place. In Hollywood, there was one wonderfully faded image depicting movie actors from different eras all seated in a theater looking up at us! This was in a seedier burg off Sunset Boulevard near the Hotel Mark Twain which had also seen better days. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera. I also ran across a cool alternative space called Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions which had a show somehow related to the High Desert Test Sites. They were obviously determined to be open on Xmas Eve.

Over the week I observed a great gap in wealth in LA which was sort of unexpected. The surprising thing was the nature of the homeless situation all in the shadow of the Oldenburg and the size of the problem. Obviously the nice weather makes it possible to sleep rough but there certainly was an undeniable air of threat as inebriated biker types, often in groups, roamed the beach and primped in the public restrooms. This is of course in stark contrast to the film stars seen near by and the fancy cars. One day I saw a bag lady sitting on a bench talking into a cell phone. Are these people actually destitute or merely homeless? Another guy was living out of his car. Can you be homeless and own a car? He was lying there bare chested, on his back with his feet propped up on his bumper, yelling down his cell phone, “Merry Christmas, California.” (image is a Los Angeles mural done by Earth Crew at 360 Hampton Dr. on the side of Gold’s gym. The website said it was done with aerosol paint.)

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