Two downtown street artists — Calder Greenwood and the mysterious “Wild Life” — have been sticking it to The Man these past couple months with a series of 3-D pieces in blighted areas of the city. For example: a paper-mache surfer in the nasty L.A. River, and a family of sunbathers on an abandoned dirt plot.
Radical! But what happens when (cringe) The Man becomes a fan?
L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents much of the artists' stomping ground, told the Downtown News of the rogue installations: “I think it's exciting. These artistic expressions soften the hard edges of our day to day life. I think it reawakens people.”
The feeling is not mutual.
The team's new piece on Winston Street (between Los Angeles and Wall, out front a boarded-up firehouse; appropriate!) is a mini cardboard city called “Skid Row Estates.” A few of the stacked little houses are tagged with “For Rent” signs — an apparent statement on the city's flippant attitude toward the only homes that Skid Row's transients have ever known.
Stephen Zeigler, the artist duo's media helper (he dependably blasts us photos of every new piece as soon as it goes up), says in an email: “It is dedicated to our fans Estella Lopez, Brady Westwater aka Ernest Shockly, Jan Perry, and The Central City East Association.”
When we check to make sure he's kidding, he writes: “It's irony Simone. I work with the homeless. We all 3 have homeless friends who have been victims of CCEA policy.”
In short: Downtown businesses pay the CCEA to advocate on their behalf. Businesses do not like bums sleeping on their doorsteps, or even on nearby sidewalks, for obvious reasons. So CCEA director Lopez has naturally done everything in her power to sweep homeless folks out of the area — regardless of whether they have somewhere else to go. The lady boss argued in an L.A. Times op-ed earlier this year that it's not “safe, sane [nor] civilized to allow limitless and hazardous possessions to occupy the sidewalks that belong to everyone.”
And as for Westwater. He recently lashed out against the bums' greatest ally — Occupy L.A. — for disrupting the hipster gentry at Art Walk with a chalking protest.
Like downtown businesses, Art Walk doesn't want its turf to look dangerous or dirty. So they, too, have pushed against homeless people/protesters, apparently encouraging cops to sweep them out with the backing of CCEA and its sister agency, the Central City Association (where Occupiers have been holding regular chalking demonstrations).
In the same Downtown News article that quoted Councilwoman Perry, Art Walk director Joe Moller said he thought the sunbather piece “was really cool.” He added: “I love it.”
Again — not mutual. And that is the story of how Calder Greenwood and Wild Life out-arted The Man in downtown L.A.