On the corner of Seventh Street and Santa Fe Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, a former single-room-occupancy hotel stands empty. In the next few years, the Rendon’s owners plan to gut it and completely renovate it, but first they’re bringing the historical hotel back to life with a massive art show and community celebration called Hidden Rooms. More than 60 artists have transformed all three floors with site-specific art installations that include murals, sculptures and live performances. It’s open to the public on Sunday, June 3, for one day only.
“All of the participating artists have a connection to downtown L.A.,” says Cindy Schwarzstein of Cartwheel Art, who curated the project and lives across the street. “A lot of them have been here since the ’70s. Some are newer artists that have just moved to the neighborhood. As far as the curatorial, it’s not just a graffiti/street art show — even if they’re graffiti or street artists, it’s, ‘Hey, let’s create an installation that’s actually an experience in this room.’”
Hidden Rooms celebrates the downtown art community and benefits local arts organizations. Schwarzstein says, “It’s a fundraiser for the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles and Art Share L.A., two important nonprofits in the neighborhood. Tickets are $20, which gets you in to see the site-specific installations upstairs, and downstairs, all of this music, art activations and two complimentary drinks from local breweries and distilleries in the bar.”
In addition to the old barroom, the ground floor will feature lounge areas, live music and interactive art installations. Eddie Donaldson of Guerrilla One is designing the performance space, and the California Locos have taken over the room next door. Schwarzstein says, “Gary Wong is doing a hobo art installation. Chaz — they call him the ‘Godfather of Graffiti’ — will be here. Norton Wisdom is going to be painting live with the bands. Dave Tourjé is working on a few things, and he’s going to be doing a performance with the band. John Van Hamersveld, who did the Endless Summer poster, is going to be doing projections.” The party will extend into the adjacent parking lot, with food tents, an outdoor lounge, an art car and more murals and installations.
Throughout the hotel, the artists created custom environments in rooms they selected themselves. On the second floor, designer-artist Guerin Swing installed a concrete bed at the center of a brutalist-themed room. Other installations on this level include a sculpture of recycled materials by Shrine, work by skateboarder/artist Jeff Ho, the oversized popsicles of Baker’s Son and performance art by Stephen Seemayer. Watch through a porthole as Seemayer creates a series of paintings with help from his “alter ego,” a human skeleton wrapped in fresh meat. Seemayer, who manipulates the skeleton like a puppet, says, “I have to put oil on it to keep it from rotting. I’ve done this before, so I know there’s a three-day limit before it becomes unbearable.” (Sunday, when the exhibit opens to the public, will be the meat’s third day.)
In room 17, Abel Alejandre’s paintings address the alpha male’s response to #MeToo, while in room 11, Maria Greenshields-Ziman, one of the hotel’s owners, has attached butterflies to the walls for a piece about mass migration. Dytch66, one of the founding members of the CBS Crew, has designed a room, and across the hall, Natasa Prosenc Stearns will project ghostly video shot inside the Rendon.
Up on the third floor, visitors can explore a politically inspired room by the hotel’s co-owner, Ralph “Afrika47” Ziman, as well as rooms by Teale Hathaway, James P. Scott, Francesca Quintano, David Lovejoy, surfer-artist Michael Torquato de Nicola and Kelly “RISK” Graval, among other artists. In room 32, NUKE from the UTI Crew painted a mural depicting the Zoot Suit Riots, which his grandparents witnessed in 1943. Actors will perform a series of 30-minute scenes in the space, half of which is set up as a zoot suiter’s home. “NUKE has been in the Arts District for 25 years. He used to come into this bar,” Schwartzstein says.
Schwartzstein points out that while other hotels have hosted art fairs in the past, Hidden Rooms is different. “None of this artwork is for sale. This is all just an installation. Each artist is doing a site-specific installation that’s here in the moment and then goes away right afterward.” The diverse artists and the varied themes in their work create dramatic contrasts as visitors walk from room to room, and the entire hotel is bursting with creative energy. Schwartzstein says, “For me, it’s not even so much about the individual artists as about that they’re all co-existing, creating and collaborating together.”
Hidden Rooms is the first event in the Art at the Rendon series, which will bring art and music events to the vacant hotel before it is renovated. They plan to continue the multidisciplinary art programming and offer artist residencies in the hotel when it reopens. The Rendon is located at 2055 E. Seventh St. Tickets are $20 and available only through Eventbrite. They will not be sold at the door.