Journey in Alta California since 1933
Despite the city's placid placed exterior, apocalypse is LA's perennial leitmotif. Glazing down from Mount Shasta toward the distant Los Angeles basin, Clarence King, the first head of the United States Geological Survey, mused that in the California lowlands, "men and women are dull, unrelieved; they are all alike. The eternal flatness of landscape, the monotony of endlessly pleasant weather, the scarcely varying year, the utter want of anything unforeseen and the absence of all surprise in life, are legible upon their quiet uninteresting faces" - a quiescent veneer that, for King, concealed the "distinctly catastrophic" nature of the Western landscape. While King had a flare for the Dantean, his view was not an uncommon one. People-watching more recently on the boardwalk of Venice beach, Jean Baudrillard surmised that Los Angeles was a "post-catastrophe word." Bertolt Brecht was more succinct, describing Los Angeles simply as "Hell." Yet the uncanny thing about King's pronouncement was that he made it in 1870, when Los Angeles barely existed. It is as though the mythology of moribund decadence and the promise of divine retribution were somehow sown into this seemingly innocuous landscape, saturating anything that might one day be built on it. As Thom Andersen puts it in his epic 2003 film essay Los Angeles Plays Itself, "Los Angeles is where the relation between reality and representation gets muddled." Or as Ed Ruscha once said, "Los Angeles to me is like a series of storefront planes that are all vertical from the street, and it's almost like nothing is behind the facades. It's all facades here - that's what intrigues me about the whole city… the facades-ness of the whole thing…". The city, as a sequence of mute "store front planes" is a site for literal and psychological projection, an instance where pop malleability is matched by material blankness. A monochromatie expanse of beige that is not unlike the cinema screen which made it world-renowned.
Peter Alexander, Thom Andersen, Lewis Baltz, Thomas Barrow, Larry Bell, Bruce Conner, Mary Corse, Jay DeFeo, John Divola, Morgan Fisher, Wally Hedrick, Robert Heinecken, Craig Kauffman, Helen Pashgian, Raymond Pettibon, Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Dr Dain L Tasker, James Welling.