Firstly, I love LA. I run a business from there and visit often. The last few days were spent with friends, sucking Blue Bottle cold brew, drinking $12 space dust juice, and catching up at that wellness lounge….so LA, right? But there must be more. On our last boojie day we went to check out The Broad. The Yayoi Kusama exhibition had a booked line until July, and the weather was too golden to be waiting for the MOCA.
After searching IG for a start point, we headed to the Los Angeles River. I had read about this a while back in National Geographic, but without visiting had no idea that this was what we were searching for. Historical, contemporary, a Hollywood Star- call it what you want but this place was unbelieveable. In 1970, Simon & Garfunkel put out, Bridge Over Troubled Water. 46 years later, the words made perfect sense.
Walking through this natural disaster- this troubled water is architectural entertainment, this is emotion, visual storytelling, mixed media, a sensory cue, under no miscalculation- this is art, and it feels magical. This installation settled that void to find something of virtuous knowledge and educate myself, so art it must be. Stepping out the subway I wanted to know more, read about what rocked the boat and find out what was happening next.
I read and read. I leant over the seats on the plane. I watched the magnitude of this continuous exercise of formations unfold beneath my tiny chair in the sky. The mechanisms of illusion from so high up were even more beautiful than on two feet.
When the Tongva Indians first came to the area, in 5000 B.C., they settled on the river’s luscious banks. Over the next century, a series of fatal floods destroyed buildings and swept residents away on this 51 mile route to the ocean. At its peak, the river moves 146,000 cubic feet of water every second. Even at its standard rate, the Colorado River, sculptor of the Grand Canyon, doesn’t even do a quarter of that. Today, it resembles something more like a concrete channel. The light is ethereal and sublime. There’s barely any sound, but I felt a sense of danger- like something worse lies ahead. A new level of decay? Or maybe more explicit forms of animal endurance, as they fight to survive.
Blue no doubt has a soothing effect. Blue makes you want to chase after it, blue makes you want to jump in and reupholster yourself. It’s the colour of the sky, the sea, my eyes, your trusted denim jeans, and is my favourite calm. But the stone cold underlay in its new residency is not shiny or vivacious. It’s industrial, with room to play. Albeit beautiful, but strangely unfunctional and undeniably not fit for use.
A standard structure is built for purpose, this is an exhibition of what once was, and what can never be again. You simply can’t press reset. There’s something that feels post-war in this. This installation has a sort of nostalgic architecture, a time when you could dream of standing on the 6th street viaduct watching the rain water take the torrent back to it’s mouth at Long Beach.
Members of the Los Angeles River foundation have worked endlessly to resurrect the river for the next generations, and support it’s growing artistic communities. Recently on view at the Museum of Latin American Art, were the grid series and the L.A. River landscapes of Victor Hugo Zayas. The paintings were inspired by a view from the LAX airport onto the cityscape below and ‘how people functioned as industrious ants in the advanced capitalist state’. Modestly, Victor Hugo Zayas claims that although he’s been painting the river for almost 30 years, he feels that only now is it revealing itself.
In February this year a 220ft section of the 6th Street Viaduct was ripped down to make way for a new roadway. The 84-year-old bridge, which soars over the river, has appeared in countless Hollywood movies, including Terminator 2 and Grease. It also featured in Kanye’s, Jesus walks video.
While there is still another 3,300ft of bridge left to take down, the wrecking ball marks the beginning of the end for the supreme structure. Earlier this year, architect Michael Maltzan told the Daily Mail, ‘The structure’s generous spans create large areas of open space below that will become new recreational green spaces’. ‘A new sloping River Gateway path will link the River to an Arts Plaza at the terminus of the viaduct in the heart of the Arts District’, Michael added.
So, it’s time to meet sense, step up from creature comforts, and find the unspoken national treasures. Resurrect the states architecture and celebrate the most unassuming rhythms of the next city you find yourself in. Cruel world or boojie comforts- there’s real life art out there. Break the mould. Go get it.
Text by Tilly Stasiuk @you_got_this_tils
Images by Sean Henry Lee @seanhlee