Unreal Los Angeles
One can go to one’s neighborhood supermarket, casual restaurant or quick purchase store for a decade and never see the same people twice. Los Angeles loves to eat sushi, yet it is well-known that sushi is enjoyed in Japan only as food for special occasions. Yet at once Los Angeles does not have a native cuisines based on seafood, or from eating of the sea.
The view from the New York Artworld:
Perry Rubenstein gallery: “Los Angeles is a new center. It looks today the way New York looked compared to Paris after the war.”
L&M Arts: The creativity is comparable to what New York was like at the time of the abstract expressionists.”
Mayor Guliani: “Los Angeles is a city on tape.”
Los Angeles is a semi-arid desert but imagines itself to be a Mediterranian tropical paradise. To help the projection of this vision, palm trees were planted, as well as two kinds of orange trees that bloomed in different parts of the year, producing the impression of year round endless bounty. The first freeway in the U.S. opened in 1950 – between business downtown Los Angeles and suburban escape white shoe East Coast Pasadena. Cal Tech is in Pasadena, and was master planned to be the West Coast equivalent of MIT. The city of Los Angeles does not actually touch the Pacific Ocean. It borders what have become over the past 25 years uniformly upscale beach communities. Downtown Los Angeles is located some 15 miles inland, and is where LA was founded. The reason for this is that the Spanish did not want to have to defend the coast, and therefore built inland. The El Camino Real spans through LA and into Northern Cali. It is the road in which the Spanish Missions of California were built. Inside of Los Angeles one can drive across part of the remnant of the historic Route 66, which actually starts in front of the Art Institute of Chicago. The route ends at the Pacific Ocean. Both Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards were originally Indian trails, yet there is almost no representation of the American Indian indigenous tribes in LA. For several decades the San Fernando Valley, which is the northern half of Los Angeles, was home to hundreds of thousand of defense contractor jobs. During the 1990’s over a quarter million of these jobs disappeared when the US military redirected its government contracts. Parallel to this relationship with government provided employment, was Los Angeles was the home to the second largest number of federal government workers in the US. In Central Los Angeles, just a few minutes drive from the Santa Monica freeway, the interstate highway that racially and economically bisects Los Angeles, major architectural experiments were made. The one, across Rodeo boulevard, is a historic master planned community called the Village Green. It was originally named Baldwin Hills Village. It is a historic Mid-Century modern “Garden City” movement property. Los Angeles was seen as a tabula rasa. Planned as an oasis in the urban territory, the central feature was that it was and still is literally a series of apartments that face into the park, forming a barricade to the outside world. One enters ones car not by walking to the street, but through the park, where low-rise structures for parking and washing clothing are set nearby. The entire landscape is exquisitely manicured. Some residents live in what seem to be single family homes, but they are actually apartments that are attached to one side of the larger apartment building. The purpose of building this community was to give a means of rents being collected that would then be pooled to buy the properties. The underlying motivation for this project was to metaphorically repay the beaten down workers in Victorian England.
The second “South of the 10 Freeway” historically significant to master planners, is Leimert Park. Designed by Olmsted & Olmsted in 1927. It was restricted to white residents until 1948, when restrictive covenants were struck down by the Supreme Court. Its design features were developed to decrease automobile traffic near schools and churches. Utility wires were buried or hidden; it was designed primarily for middle-income families but given the appearance of an upper income community. Just north of Leimert Park is the historic West Adams neighborhood. Several mansions remain, including Busby Berkeley’s and Fatty Arbuckle’s. Many more are being restored, as is a small 1920’s farm, from a time when the area was at the outskirts of central Los Angeles.
In the late nineteenth century, there were dozens of hotels in the Hollywood Hills that served as respite from the harsh East Coast and Midwestern winters. Nothing remains of this today.
In the first decade of the 20th century, neon was introduced into the US through LA via Earl Anthony. He had visited Paris and seen the liquid fire neon light displays there, and paid to have two neon signs for his Packard automobile showroom in downtown LA.
The motel concept is from California. Once it was combined with fantasy neon signage in LA, the shattered dreamscape of Los Angeles it became the symbol of a new genre of filmmaking: the Neon Noir cinema. The infamous Bates motel on Sunset boulevard (from Alfred Hitchcock’s neon noir thriller Psycho) in the Silverlake neighborhood of LA has been demolished.
Los Angeles, California
Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California