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When Santa Monica's 18th Street Arts Center asked Lita Albuquerque to restage her 1980 work Spine of the Earth, she didn't think the process would become a work all its own. The first time around, Albuquerque and a team of assistants were working in the El Mirage dry lake bed, using blood-red powdered pigment to create interlocking geometric shapes against the stark flats of the Mojave Desert. Unable to re-create the work outside the city, Albuquerque moved to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, home to a dramatic panoramic view. But when she learned the pigment would stain the steps of a beloved running trail, she replaced painting with something bigger: 500 volunteers in robes, unfurling across the landscape, not unlike a paintbrush in the desert.
What was once a desert pilgrimage has become an intervention into the humdrum of the everyday. Because it's held in a public park, there'll be nothing to stop a jogger from weaving through the red-robed procession. And the best view of the skydiver who kicks off the performance — a stand-in for the aerial perspective that's key to understanding the original work — might be from a car on the Santa Monica Freeway.
And that's cool with Albuquerque. “If the original was about utilizing the Earth as a blank canvas,” she says, “then this is about the movement of people in this extraordinary city.”

Sun., Jan. 22, 11 a.m., 2012

LA Weekly