By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The air must have been supercharged in 1974, the memories of the protest and the gunfire still relatively present, as the young performance artists suddenly took to the wall, rolls of tape ripping, trying to stick themselves to the surface. The artists sprung out of the tape like figures of a mural coming alive in real time, a critique of the political effectiveness of murals in and of themselves. L.A.'s history of art activism comes into focus here, its history of the disenfranchised gaining a voice.
The Women's Building, 1727 N. Spring St., Chinatown
The Women's Building, just up the I-5 freeway, north of Chinatown on Spring Street, also conjures an alternate history, one featured in an October exhibit on the topic at Otis College of Art and Design. This converted warehouse, miraculously, is still full of artists' studios. Covered in graffiti, it's run down not out of neglect but from containing people with better things to do than keep it up. Barbara T. Smith, Suzanne Lacy, Leslie Labowitz and Nancy Fried all made work here or performed here. In 1978, they raised to the roof of the building a naked lady sculpture by Kate Millet.
Chris Burden's Shoot, F-Space, 1514-F E. Edinger Ave. (address now nonexistent), Santa Ana
Industrial parks are hardly exciting even on their best days, but for another site of pivotal performance, one can drive to Santa Ana to Edinger Avenue. It is an endless blank of warehouses and corporate outposts, parking lots and metal. Here you can imagine the shot, which must have sounded like a quick hiss, of Chris Burden's infamous Shoot, performed at the long-gone F-Space. On Nov. 19, 1971, Burden walked into the gallery, followed by a friend. Calling out "Ready," the friend shot him in the arm.
It feels silly to be here, in a Santa Ana industrial park, but Southern California's locations play a part in its art, breathe life and give birth to it. Burden once was asked if some of his works grew out of boredom and frustration with California, and he admitted that could be. I find a confirmation here in this warehouse city, where the shot must have been barely heard.
Seeing Richard Diebenkorn's old studio at 2444 Main St. in Santa Monica, you see his Ocean Park paintings, all made there, become less and less abstract. The streets angling to the sea around the building, in the pink and pale blue light of a beach evening, recall the geometries and pastel hues of Diebenkorn's most famous works. James Turrell's studio a block south at 2671 Main, the old Mendota Hotel, is now a Starbucks and apparently, according to coffee regulars, Bill Cosby's office occupies the second floor.
A ficus tree in front has grown large, and the building is quite beautiful. In 1969, light flooded inside, and Turrell shaped and oriented it by removing windows and bits of walls to split the space, creating odd perceptual shifts.
Driving Pacific Standard Time is similar to Turrell's need "to accept the light coming through the openings." L.A. enters its art like light through that old building. L.A. art comes and goes. It's fun to see where it was, where it went, its activity now quiet, ready to flare up again.