How Many Billboards? Art in Stead
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Nobody walks in LA; a similar number of people visit art galleries and museums in this city. In an effort to correct this second problem the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House has organized a new exhibition How Many Billboards? Art In Stead; an exhibition you might not even know you’re seeing, and one you can visit without having to leave your car.
The MAK Center commissioned 21 artists to create new artworks which have been installed on billboards across town. Given the blank canvas of a large blank billboard, the artists were given little direction, and the result is 21 very different projects which soar above gas stations, freeways, mechanic shops and McDonalds.
Some of the artists took similar directions. Several focused on embracing the medium: Kenneth Anger’s billboard shouts “ASTONISH,” Brandon Lattu’s billboard is taken from actual ad for a used car, and Kenni Tribe’s billboard features clouds that remain static as the sky behind the billboard constantly changes.
Race and ethnicity were another major issue in several works. Kori Newkirk predictably utilized snow as a latent metaphor for black vs. white, Kira Lynn Harris featured the Watt Towers in her work, and Ken Gonzales-Day used images of sculpture (a black man and a white man, though both black in color) from the Getty Museum’s collection.
Also noteworthy is Allen Ruppersberg’s billboard. The huge sign features an exhibition catalogue from LACMA’s well known Art and Technology Program, with the words “Pacific Standard Time.” This is of course an advertisement for the much-anticipated Getty Foundation-funded initiative Pacific Standard Time, which will culminate in more then 20 simultaneous exhibitions focusing on post-war California art at museums all over Southern California. Ruppersberg has created art, but has also used the billboard for its primary function; he has used it to promote a product that is “coming soon.”
Inverting the highly visible commercial utility of the billboard and using it as a way to make art visible everyday, is especially timely task when considering how Los Angeles is reconsidering city ordinances about oversized and digital billboards, and the most-loathed-of-all supergraphics.
The MAK Center provides a handy google map with flags marking the locations of the billboards. Trying to see all 21 of the billboards is ambitious, so use the google map to find a few that are grouped together. Or, even better, don’t plan a route and stumble on the billboards unintentionally. Image how many people see these billboards everyday and do not event realize it. The MAK Center has brought art into Angelenos’ everyday lives.