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L.A. Artist Installs Paper-Mache Sunbathers on Downtown Dirt Plot Abandoned Since 2007

A long way from Malibu.

Curbed LAA long way from Malibu.

Update, Thursday, 3 p.m.: "Mysterious Case of the Downtown L.A. Sunbathers, Solved!"

Here's one way to comment on long-neglected construction blight: Put some paper-mache on it!

Perhaps frustrated, like the rest of us, that it has taken the federal government five years (and counting) to figure out what they're doing with the plot of dirt at 1st and Broadway, an unidentified street artist has installed three lifelike sunbathers in the dust. And voila...

... we're transported from a muggy, beat-up downtown intersection to a Westside family vaycay. The piece claims an immediate spot among L.A.'s best street-art statements -- all social disaster bathed in sunshine.

"I was thinking: Who'd want to sit in a fenced-in area, on rocks," said a passerby to the Los Angeles Times. "There's no shade, no water -- and they even brought a child! ... But I'm glad it's not real."

They're actually kind of similar to L.A. artist Ramiro Gomez's cardboard cutouts of migrant workers, which he plants on Beverly Hills lawns to see if anyone will notice. Only this time, the Westsiders have been transplanted to the Eastside.

Their sunning spot at 1st and Broadway has been abandoned since 2007, when the Junipero Serra State Office Building was demolished for its earthquake damage. Since then, it's become a breeding ground for blight and brush. Sometimes even ducks, when the rains come. (Which is adorable, of course, but also very pathetic from an urban-planning standpoint.)

Here it is, pre-sunbathers:


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So what's the holdup?

The U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), has been battling the General Services Administration's big plans to build a federal courthouse at the site.

Denham claims the courthouse is a "superfluous" and "unnecessary" waste of $400 million in taxpayer dollars. He recently managed to get a bill through the House -- though it'll have a harder time in the Senate -- that would block the funds the courthouse needs to operate.

The congressman said in a recent press release that he...

"... personally toured the LA Courthouse facilities in Los Angeles and found that there is vacant space currently not being used in the Roybal and Spring Street buildings. ... ALL of the judges currently in Los Angeles can fit in Roybal. This country is $15 trillion in debt, and GSA continues to waste millions of dollars on a project no one needs."

Yet still, in an act of defiance, the GSA is going ahead with architect bids and generally pretending like nothing's wrong in the slightest.

No matter which side you're on, it's clear the White House bicker sesh isn't doing anything for ground-level Los Angeles, stuck eternally with this chain-linked sore thumb at a major downtown intersection.

It's really quite embarrassing -- but nothing a few paper-mache mannequins can't fix. We've contacted a few street-art friends for clues as to who might be behind so much wonderful.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]