This Artist Photographed Murals All Across Los Angeles
Ken Gonzales-Day, a multidisciplinary artist based out of Los Angeles, has created a city-spanning retrospective of L.A.'s quintessential murals and street art. In conjunction with Pacific Standard Time's LA/LA and the Skirball Cultural Center, the artist is presenting Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark-Making in LA, on display at the Skirball from October 6 to February 25. The exhibit will feature 140 new photographs of mural practices across L.A., displaying the city's rich history of public art and the how the intersections of race and class manifest in the "visual landscape of Los Angeles’s streets."
Gonzales-Day spent ten months crossing the city, charting murals from Venice Beach to Pacoima. In an interview with Madeleine Brand on KCRW's Press Play, he describes how, "[m]any of us have very romantic or simplistic ideas about what we're seeing when we see an image on a wall. And so I wanted to take the opportunity to look at all of the city, and to think of it as a kind of portrait of the city."
The "surface tension" of the show's title represents the tension of the surface area of the city itself; this city with "different needs and desires and failings and challenges," as he told Brand. Murals in Leimert Park focus on the history of Black Angelenos and the general Civil Rights Movement; Judy Baca's Great Wall is a seminal work of Chicano art in L.A.; murals downtown feature extensive art in the middle of homeless encampments or the hyper-gentrified Arts District. The question behind all murals is "who painted them, and why," which leads to a larger conversation about how different groups and identities experience Los Angeles.
"Accessible to everyone and often stumbled upon accidentally, murals reveal how art often stimulates conversation, bridges divides between people, and creates understanding,” said Robert Kirschner, Skirball Museum Director, in a statement sent to LAist. Gonzales-Day, in a statement about the show, said, "I witnessed memorials to those lost and to those who inspire, as well as the rage and political frustration of city residents, and even resistance to displacement. In a city of contested spaces, these are traces of its people: material celebrations and negotiations of the politics of place, often painted side by side."
Here's a map of the locations of every mural in the exhibit:
The exhibit itself will offer similar visual map aides to accompany the photographs, encouraging viewers to embark on their own mural-charting journey. Printed versions of the map will also be available to take away from the gallery. The exhibit is one of hundreds across Southern California as part of PST's LA/LA initiative, featuring the interplay between Latin American art and Los Angeles.
Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark-Making in LA is on display at the Skirball Cultural Center, located at 2701 N Sepulveda Blvd in Bel-Air. It is open 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.