Los Angeles, USASeptember 22, 2014
In your city, how can we tell that we are in the year 2014?
We can tell it is 2014 because it is summer and the Dodgers are not being broadcasted on TV. Other signs of the times are the dryness caused by the worst drought in memory, and the largest swell caused by hurricane Marie in Baja California.
What in your city reminds you of the past?
Perhaps Olvera Street because of its touristy reconstruction of the old Mexican town of “El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Ángeles del Río de la Porciúncula.”
Which building or intersection in the city would make us think that we are in the future?
Paradoxically, also Olvera Street, as it signals what seems to be an inevitable demographic change in the population of the region.
Where in your city would be the best place to lose track of time, freeze time, or gain time?
Los Angeles has a particular relationship with time and its denial of history as well as with its future. In that sense a place like Broadway in downtown seems stuck in time but it has also appeared as a futuristic location in movies like “Blade Runner.” In that sense it freezes time in some “film noir” space while simultaneously gaining it in its science fiction. Like Broadway, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan revivalist Ennis House in Hollywood also appears as a futuristic location in "Blade Runner" even as it refers to a pre-Columbian past. It falls apart and gets reconstructed cyclically due to the faulty fabrication of its concrete blocks. This makes me think that the building was conceived as a modernist ruin.
What song or local band would you recommend for an everyday playlist?
Actually this is something that has obsessed me for some time. There are so many classic songs about the city and bands as well. Perhaps there are movies about it. I have a playlist with my favorite songs about the city in Spotify that is called HelL.A. It can be accessed by anyone with a Spotify account. I even have my favorite songs about particular neighborhoods like Hollywood, Compton, the Valley, and East L.A. I start with a classic track by Rubén Guevara’s band Con Safos called C/S that talks about the history of the city, and include classics like L.A. Woman from the Doors, Walking in L.A. by Missing Persons and of course Frank Zappa, NWA and others. There is even a song that mentions the 1900 block of Echo Park Boulevard by a rapper called Jo Ski. That is exactly where I live!
Which museum or cultural space is generally omitted from a typical cultural excursion, but is definitely worth visiting?
I wonder at this point what is exactly a typical cultural excursion? Places like “The Museum of Jurassic Technology” that were perhaps omitted at one time might now be included as typical. I would have mentioned a muffler shop/museum called “El Pedorrero” (the Farter) that had very particular architecture painted in yellow, blue and white stripes and the craziest collection of flatulent Americana but, unfortunately, it went under because its owner could not repay the loans he got to expand it. It was the landmark of Whittier Boulevard. Bill Clitoris Al Capone Los Mufflers created it and he claimed it was a corporation and that its museum had a million and one items.
In which bookstore can you find new or second-hand publications on art history, exhibition catalogs, or artist monographs?
At this point you can probably order these books on Amazon and there are also the bookstores of the museums that I do not find particularly original. I find a store like Wacko, at 4633 Hollywood Boulevard, more original and with a wider range of “art” history, catalogs, monographs and the like. I would also recommend the artists book fair organized by MOCA.
What dish most embodies your city, and where would you find it?
Kogi tacos did for a while. These fashionable Korean tacos started the whole food truck revolution now common everywhere and also speak about the kind of hybridity and fusions you often find around here.
Where can you find the best coffee (or tea)?
There is a place in downtown I like called “Spring for Coffee.” There, they seem to obsess in a particularly neurotic way about what coffee can be. “Demitasse” in Little Tokyo is good, too.
What is a monument that reveals a hidden past?
I would recommend Sandra de la Loza’s research. She created the “Pocho Research Society's Field Guide to Erased and Invisible Histories.” She has been creating monuments and commemorating sites in Los Angeles that have been erased by urban development or neglect. One of her projects was a plaque that commemorated the expulsion of Mexican American families in Chavez Ravine where Dodger stadium was eventually built.
Outdoor or public artwork worth visiting:
I recommend “America Tropical” by David Alfaro Siqueiros in Olvera Street. The mural was whitewashed and destroyed after its completion in 1932 because of its provocative iconography and political significance. Recently the Getty tried to recover and restore as much as it could, which was not much, creating what seems almost a conceptual art piece. There is an interpretive center, a protective shelter and a viewing platform for the ghost of the destroyed artwork originally painted with spray guns, preceding street art. This spectacle talks about the schizophrenic relation the city has with public art and with its past.
Where would be the best place to view the sunset in your city?
Probably from the Griffith Park observatory or the Getty Center. Any view from the mountains of the ocean is great.
Next Sunday, let’s meet at:
The StubHub Center to see a soccer match. The LA Galaxy and Chivas USA play there on the weekends and it’s supposed to be the best soccer stadium in the US. Truth is that I have not been there yet, so let’s meet there.
Which book transports me to your city?
There are many, many books but I would recommend the graphic novel series “Love and Rockets” by the Hernandez Brothers. That is really my city. I would also recommend “Violence Girl” by Alice Bag.
What aspect of your city most inspires you?
Its diversity and lack of a center. A place without a center cannot have a periphery.
Where would one probably get lost: geographically, emotionally or historically speaking?
Everywhere! That is the problem with this humongous, ever changing, sprawling suburban space.
If you were to be commissioned today to create an artwork “about” this city, briefly describe your proposal.
This is a difficult question to answer without a budget or a context. I would argue that the new paintings that I am working on have a lot to do with my relation with the city. They are “monochrome” abstractions that refer to iconoclasm and politics using car custom painting and other new materials. However, if we are going to speculate I have always wanted to make a Western urban movie about the cowboys I see in the city who are always Mexican immigrants who seem out of context in time and space and often have to confront local gangs and the cops. They totally redefine this most American character and genre of movies.