Monday, August 16, 2010

Flat as Art Object

Two Sundays ago I biked to Pico Union to attend an art event hosted by g727, the downtown art gallery co-owned by one of my favorite LA artists, James Rojas. It was to be a conversation between James, who is also an urban planner, an artist, Carmen Argote, and historic preservationist Edgar Garcia. To be discussed were issues of space and domestic life.

I hadn't read the event details closely, so I was charmed to discover that the event was taking place inside the artwork itself, 720 sq. ft.: Household Mutations. Argote had transformed her childhood home, a flat in a typical LA fourplex from the very early 20th century, using white paint on the carpeting to highlight the shape of the place. The floorplan became the focal point.

James led us on a tour of the flat, pointing out details that indicated when it had been built, and how there probably hadn't been a large New York style brick apartment building next door when the flat's large windows were planned.

We followed him back into the bedroom, whose odd windows must have once looked out on a panorama of the San Gabriel Mountains. Now you can see a carport.

Then we headed into the flat upstairs for a more conventional discussion of the piece by the three experts. Apparently Argote's family has owned the fourplex since the early 70s, and has housed various family members over the years. Interestingly, some of these family members were present at the event and chimed in with details about the house and the neighborhood. Argote spoke about how the shape of that home had been burned into her memory through repeated actions, and Rojas and Garcia spoke about the impact of east coast-style floorplans on immigrant families' domestic rhythms, so to speak.

As someone interested in the interplay of infrastructure and behavior, I found the whole thing terribly fascinating. If I weren't such an itinerant grad student (read: broke traveler) I'd buy a print of the Craigslist ad they made for the exhibit.