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Art celebrates L.A. utopia

Sara Brown-Hiegel

Issue date: 9/29/05 Section: Lifestyle
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Huge sculptures also fill the gallery rooms. One is gray and looks as if it were made of concrete. Created by Christopher Michlig, its jagged edges pierce the space around it and bottles carved out of the huge block resemble the litter that covers Los Angeles streets.

Another creation, formed by Chris Ellis, was made with a leaf blower attached to a huge, plastic bag, which loudly blows up and deflates again. Sticks on top of the bag rise and then crumble as the piece goes through another cycle. The distractions of this piece prompt ideas of the fact that there is a constant buzz in Los Angeles. There is always noise, from helicopters to car horns to grass mowers.

Further ahead, visitors encounter a different series of photographs taken by Whitney Stolich. These four images focus on the outer areas of Los Angeles, encompassing all of what is Southern California into the big picture of the exhibit.

But these images are not like the others. The outer area in each picture is blurry, making it seem as if they are images of miniature models, as opposed to presentations of real life.

One image is of a small, unfinished country project in the middle of an open landscape. It looked abandoned, mid-building, and never became the house it was meant to be. The next was of farmlands, with trucks and yet-to-be cultivated dirt. Another was of the residential areas found only an hour away from Los Angeles, where the peach-colored houses all look exactly alike. And lastly, a lonely windmill, sitting in a field seems to no longer have a purpose.

Through conversations with other exhibit-goers, it was revealed that these were real-life photographs, blurred with special in-camera techniques. Through this trick, these photographs showed that there is more to Southern California than the supposed fakeness of Los Angeles.

Many people that have come to Los Angeles from elsewhere complain about the fakeness of this city and the superficiality of the residents here. The excellent in-camera work on these photographs makes the city appear to be a mere model, representing the lack of authenticity in the Hollywood image and ostentation of its plastic people.

But with a closer look, reality can be found. There is depth here, found every day in fresh conversations, new discoveries and fantastic art.

The words of Sicat describing this strange but wonderful city will forever resonate and have meaning in Los Angeles. "This is a weird utopia, and it is encompassed into the mood of 'drive by and reLAX.'"


"drive by and reLAX" is on display through Oct. 30 at UPspace gallery, located in the Los Angeles Design Center at 5955 S. Western Ave. Admission is free. For more information, call (310) 415-4444.
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