Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘LAPD

Chapter 2 (Part 1): The Grand Avenue Project, Arrested (Re)Development

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Eli can be a real pain in the ass.”[i] – Frank Gehry, architect, Walt Disney Concert Hall

Grand Avenue framed by Disney Concert Hall.

Grand Avenue framed by Disney Concert Hall.

Eli Broad’s dealings with MOCA coincided and aligned to renewed, old interests in downtown Los Angeles. Broad served as chairman of the Grand Avenue Committee, an advisory body formed in 2000, responsible for planning and overseeing a massive $3 billion redevelopment plan for an area along Grand Avenue and Bunker Hill originally estimated to be completed in 2009.

In the previous decade, Broad had been instrumental in the realization of Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The widely recognized structure was designed by Frank Gehry in his now iconic style of undulating silver forms. Lillian Disney (wife of Walt) initiated the concert hall project in 1987, with an initial gift of $50 million.[ii]  It would take 16 years and another $224 million to complete the project.  The County of Los Angeles provided the land and $116 million in funding toward a six-level subterranean parking garage beneath Gehry’s building.   By the mid 1990’s, after years of sagging economy, the garage was the only complete portion of the project—capped with a  vacant slab of concrete.[iii] Enter Eli Broad and his fundraising partner-in-crime, Mayor Richard Riordan.  Both men personally contributed $5 million to revive the building campaign, and Broad helmed the fundraising effort and raised an additional $120 million dollars from private and corporate contributors in three years.[iv] Walt Disney Concert Hall finally opened in 2003.

Another Broad beneficiary located on Grand Avenue is Central Los Angeles Area High School #9, now called the Ramon C. Corteines School of Visual and Performing Arts. In 2001, Broad had encouraged school officials to build an architectural statement and create a school focused on visual and performing arts education, rather than the originally planned, modestly-priced, $87 million campus.[v]  Broad initially agreed to contribute to the project, but later threatened to withhold funding if the school did not operate as a charter high school as he saw fit.[vi]  The campus welcomed its first class in 2009 with a price tag of roughly $230 million.  Broad’s mission with the High School was accomplished: another architectural monument and another piece of Grand Avenue complete.

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sixbeaststwomonkeys

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LAPD Headquarters

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New Kids on the Block

After reading all of the reviews and discourse in the LA Times about Peter Shelton’s work, I knew I had to scuttle down to 1st and Spring streets to the new LAPD headquarters see what all the hoopla was about.  My mistake was two-fold: because I went at night, and also because when I chose to visit the new public artwork, it was completely surrounded by a temporary fence, which I think was installed to protect the setup for an inaugural event elsewhere on the headquarter grounds.

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So I may have climbed up on a barrier to get this picture.

Seeing sixbeaststwomonkeys at night was nice in a way because all of the photos I had seen in the press were taken with lots of daylight.  I think the sculptures really change at night.  Anyone walking around downtown in the dark (no one but me is) should be creeped out by these eerie sculptures (especially the two “monkeys” which look to me like two crazy, long-legged Dali elephants). In terms of installation the works were surprisingly well-lit at night, in that awful municipal lighting that turns everything either black or yellow.  Good for me the sculpture are inky black anyways.

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Urban Light is so much prettier.

Each of the eight pieces in the procession of sixbeaststwomonkeys is placed on a raised platform.  The eight platforms break through the long line of the stylobate-like steps that lead from sidewalk level up to the secondary pedestrian pathway.  All of this space functions to distance the building of the headquarters from the street; this construction is all about safety.  But I’m glad they used public art to beautify the space.

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Is that your leg?—Oh no, it’s just a railing.

There are some things I did not care for in the installation of these works.  Running around all of the sculpture are railings.  I know these railings are functional, helping people climb the three measly step up, or helping visitors up ramps, but these railings really conflict with the sculptures.  The skinny metal poles of the rails look terrible with the skinny legs of the “monkey” figures.  The formal comparison the two skinny features is ugly.

Another thing I disliked about the installation was the spacing in between the parade of sculptures.  Going south along Spring Street, all the figures were equidistant from one another, but the last “monkey” was drastically separate from the rest.  This spacing was dictated by the service driveway that led up to the building, but it really divided the last “monkey” from his friends.

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Driveway that ruined the spacing.

Finally my last issue with the installation of sixbeaststwomonkeys, and a major issue, is the way these sculptures are integrated into the landscaping of the site.  Directly in front of every sculpture is a tree.  And I mean, directly.  These little saplings are fairly short at the moment but they will grow, and their foliage will get fuller.  These plants completely obscure the sculpture from view!

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Monkey hiding in a tree.

To be fair, the trees will probably be taller than the “beasts,” but the trees in front of the “monkeys” will completely overpower the sculptures, people on the street, even on the sidewalk won’t even notice the “monkeys.”   My question then is this: Why spend more than a million dollars on public art to decorate a space, if you then go and cover it with trees?

I know there has been much debate over sixbeaststwomonkeys, and that many of the people who work inside the new headquarters dislike it (yes I’m making reference to the “cow splat” comment), but I must say I think these works nicely adorn the contemporary façade of the new building.

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Too swanky for a police headquarters, or just swanky enough?

The uneven windows of the building rise up behind the Shelton’s figures twisting the eye upward.  The “beasts” and “monkeys” of this work seem to function differently fro one another.  The “monkeys” operate similarly to the windows of the building, twisting upwards, while the massive “beasts” anchor the work securely to the space.

I think the critics should embrace sixbeaststwomonkeys, and if they don’t it is not as if there are that many pedestrians in that area passing them anyways…

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How could you not love this?—It’s so endearing!

– H.I.

Written by exhibitioninquisition

November 3, 2009 at 9:44 AM