Hollywood Land: An Exhibition Statement From Curator Kirsten Bengtson-Lykoudis
In a salute to the 100th anniversary of the Hollywood Sign, our first exhibition of 2024 features a gathering of Los Angeles artists who contemplate life inside Southern California’s sprawling metropolis. When the sign first appeared in the 1920s, it read “HOLLYWOODLAND” and blinked out the syllables in letters 43 feet tall. Meant to promote a housing development and scarred by the suicide of actor Peg Entwistle, who jumped to her death after climbing the H, this shimmering beacon morphed over time from ad to icon. After being battered by the elements, the original sign was shortened, then rebuilt by Hugh Hefner during L.A.’s Boogie Nights era. The abbreviated sign looms on the Hollywood Hills like the statue of Christ hovering over Rio, offering solace, suffering, and potential stardom to the mortals passing below it—a symbol of creative hopes, harsh realities, elusive dreams, and glittering excess.
The artists in Hollywood Land weave personal narratives, reflect on heritage, spirituality, and community, provide glimpses of intimate enclaves, and offer frank views of the street. A vibrant, multi-layered city emerges with room for interpretation. Portraits of Angelenos mingle with a color-drenched skyline, a sunset photo of surfers on the beach, a voyeuristic glimpse from a pool party, and a portrait from Skid Row. Gilberto Godoy Jr. transposes the faces of residents over photographs of storefronts and street corners. Toria Maldonado explores how their nonbinary trans identity intertwines with their Mexican-Japanese American roots. Ruth Chase combines audio and photos with painting to describe a day in the life of a young woman from Venice. Selected from an array of applicants to NOT REAL ART's flagship grant program, the artists featured in Hollywood Land blend their creative visions with the realities of life in the City of Angels.
Visions of L.A.
Kaye Freeman lived in Japan and Southeast Asia before landing in L.A. Her idealized painting “Citadels” gives an outside take on her adopted city with hints of dry humor. Andrew England’s deadpan view of a parking lot with the Hollywood Sign lounging in the background reflects his ongoing fascination with mundane scenes observed during his morning walk. Jen LaVita’s psychedelic aerosol painting of the sun setting over palms and ubiquitous power lines nails the tension between the ordinary and the sublime. Amy Gaskin’s classic surfer photograph has a Beach Boy-era nostalgia. Taken with a vintage underwater camera, SameSource’s revealing view of a pool party combines elements of contemporary alternative culture with retro Hollywood decadence. Gilberto Godoy Jr.’s evocative multiple-exposure photographs, featured on LARaised, capture the essence of his hometown.
Scenarios From the Street
Hedy Torres’ “60,000 in L.A.” focuses on the city’s growing number of unhoused residents and their lack of political representation, highlighting the gap between poverty and wealth. Deborah Aschheim’s detailed drawing of an activist on 8th St. stems from a politically oriented series centering on memory and place. “I Wish I Was…,” a street art installation and dance video by Nieko McDaniel, reaches back to the “golden era of graffiti, hip-hop and rap, and b-boying.” In “Brentwood's Burning,” Julie Gardner collages images of a Los Angeles neighborhood with flames and smoke to address the effects of climate change and the lurking presence of natural disasters. Street artist hero (Casey Courey-Pickering) installs socially charged imagery throughout the city, while Thomas Reddick shares his love of cartoons and eclectic Los Angeles street food in the digital illustration “Food Truck Friends.”
Faces of Angelenos
Aalany McMahan’s ’80s-inspired workout video merges images from her dreams, a pulsing electronic soundtrack, and an anthropomorphic slinky toy with the rawness of VHS to evoke the retro glamor of L.A. during the disco era. Obsessed with horror films as a child, photographer and performance artist Christopher Velasco takes on the world of facial reconstruction in the drag self-portrait “A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.” Benjamin (Manager) Catt’s painting “Foot Steps,” portraying the bond between father and son, is part of a series of public artworks involving Skid Row’s unsheltered community. Tanya Flores Hodgson’s “Americanizacíon,” a self-portrait with objects and attire from Nicaragua, explores feminist, immigration, and identity issues in the Latinx community. Jaymie Leslie’s “Memory on Pico Blvd” pays homage to Latino immigrants while addressing the code-switching she experiences between various aspects of her cultural identity.
Zen Reflections and Enclaves
Uprooted Los Angeles artist Tiffany Anne Jordan reflects on a year of solitude after her move to the East Coast. SkyE’s secluded “Secret Sacred SkyE Garden,” a Zen enclave near downtown L.A., provides a collaborative space for creativity, spiritual connection, and transdisciplinary queer theater. Cat Jones’ mesmerizing self-surveillance project, “The Quiet One,” shares an intimate glimpse of daily rituals in a cloistered Los Angeles apartment. Chad Goei left Missouri years ago in search of the California dream. His abstract painting “Life is a Wave” alludes to his emotional fluctuations while learning to survive as an artist. After a challenging upbringing, Lamonte Goode developed a spiritual, movement-based practice called CYBERYOGA, an acronym for calisthenics, yoga, breakdance, evolution, and revolution. Susan Shifflett’s serene portrait of an artist dozing by an open window, with birds alighting around them, invites viewers to participate in this tranquil sensory moment.