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Interview with On the Road

Interview with On the Road
On the Road, Photo © Jaime Kowal

art:i:curate interviews On the Road organisers about their yearlong series of projects and the experimental nature of LA art scene.


MK: On the Road is an ongoing series of architecture, art, and design projects that take place within the contemporary context of the city of Los Angeles. How did you come up with this project?

OTR: The series developed out of both a void and a response to The Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in LA exhibition series, and in particular MOCA’s “A New Sculpturalism” exhibition. The Getty’s series and related exhibits explored contemporary architectural practice in the city of Los Angeles from 1940 to the present-day. The series was lacking a critical perspective from our point of view—that of young and emerging practitioners who were starting their professional careers and practice in LA. The MOCA show was also at a standstill when we conceived of the first exhibition and yearlong project and the fact that the city would be potentially missing out on a contemporary architectural show was somewhat troubling. While the MOCA exhibition sought to examine the past twenty-five years of contemporary architecture from both established and emerging practices in Los Angeles; we felt that there were even younger practices that also captured the experimental nature of LA that were not being represented. The absence of this younger group served as the programmatic framework for our first exhibit and yearlong series.


MK: How do you choose the venue?

OtR: Sites are chosen quite systematically. The On the Road project title itself suggests that it is situated outside of the traditional context of institutional gallery space and into various public spaces in and around the city of LA. Each project engages a distinct locale, from Downtown to Atwater Village to the Westside, Palm Springs, and next the Hollywood Hills. We’ve been On the Road for almost a year now traversing the diverse typologies of Los Angeles by situating contemporary architecture, art, and design programs within the cultural fabric of the city.


MK: There is a recurrent tendency to divide art and architecture as two separate fields in terms of their relationship with idea of ‘function’. By creating a collaborative and discursive platform, On the Road, sets out as an example for the regeneration of the urban landscape. Do you think that the ephemeral character of the individual projects is a key element to succeed that?

OtR: The series is invested in dialogues between art and architecture and among other disciplines. On the Road addresses interdisciplinary movement acknowledging that there are shared interests and overlaps, but also distinct personalities and pursuits among a conversive group of colleagues. While we are engaging with the varied landscape of LA, both urban, suburban, desert, and the hillside, we are not interested in the recreation or restoration of the landscape of the city. We are, however, interested in how the project engages these diverse landscapes and tropes of the city through the siting of the objects produced for each event. The ephemeral nature of these programs/events/exhibitions is critical to the understanding of our program since it highlights contemporary practice at this very moment. It is temporal in more ways than one—the project itself is a yearlong exploration, which can be seen as a single performance with a series of acts. This determined timeframe also contributes to the dialogue and conversation in real-time.


MK: Tell us about your latest installation that took place in a swimming pool?

OtR: In Southern California the pool is a pervasive element in the landscape. From Hockney’s Paper Pools to Ruscha’s Nine Swimming Pools, the pool is a site of activation. Our last event titled “Pleasure Pools” was situated poolside at the Amado in Central Palm Springs during Modernism Week. Four spatial installations that considered the liquid space of the pool were realized over the course of the weekend.

From On the Road’s reinvention of Allan Kaprow’s Fluids, 1967 as a 10-foot column in direct relation to the modernist house that surrounded the pool to David Freeland’s Deep End, a giant polyhedron made of PVC piping and colorful foam pool noodles where a hose at the base propelled it to rotate in the water; synchronized or drifting, each pool was a thoughtfully curated installation around various ideas and themes developed and deployed by a group of LA-based architects, artists, and designers. The individual pools informed specific locales by engaging the vernacular of desert oasis through their collaboration that was both transformative and reinforced the notion of pleasure.


MK: Blurring spatial and social contexts – the insides and outsides – in each of these projects, On the Road, proposes an alternative and less formal way to experience art. Do you think there is a certain conformity established by cultural institutions, both private and public that needs to be surpassed?

OtR: On the Road presents work in an alternative way that is outside of the confines of a traditional white-cube gallery space, yet even with a less formal presentation the work exhibited still maintains that same sense of criticality as projects presented inside of an institution. The format for exhibition is not a reaction for or against cultural institutions but rather a counter-cultural point of view and the most effective way in which we could operate to produce a project within the city that was not subject to restrictions and/or limitations outside of our own means. Hence, the project might be somewhat gritty in appearance but the themes and ideas explored are thoughtful and intentional.


MK: People tend to believe that the casual and funny aspect extracts from art its criticality. What is the role On the Road plays in the city of Los Angeles?

OtR: What might appear as casual in some of our projects is subverted by the strong sense of criticality that is imbued in the individual programs and projects presented. Seemingly casual in appearance, we dedicate months to the planning and execution of these ideas, which are then realized through one-to-two-day exhibitions and/or events. For us, On the Road aims to provide a platform for contemporary production in the city of Los Angeles, one that is willing to take programming risks and deliver on a DIY shoestring budget. We see this approach as very much in the spirit of Los Angeles.


MK: Which is your next On the Road stop?

OtR: Our fifth and final event, which will conclude our yearlong journey, is a climb to the top of Mt. Lee in the Hollywood Hills on Saturday, May 17th. The Hollywood Sign is a landmark and cultural icon positioned atop of one of the most recognizable hillsides in the world. LA’s horizontal sprawl most commonly describes the city, however, it is the hills that give the city its unique three-dimensional quality as they place physical constraint and are latent with creative potential, simultaneous qualities that have and continue to be a source of inspiration and invention for architects and artists alike. They are sites of tension and play! From Pierre Koenig’s iconic Stahl House/Case Study House 22 to Ed Ruscha’s famed painting The Back of Hollywood, 1977, the sign and accompanying vistas have significantly impacted the cultural and artistic landscape of Los Angeles. On the Road’s fifth program will address this specific hillside and the city’s iconic sign from various points of view —front, back, side, partial and oblique — and engage with its varying scale from different positions along the route. No other hillside in LA drives imagination and captures desire more. With its strong historical lineage and immediate adjacency to the city, the valley, and the wilderness of Griffith Park, the site will be the starting point for a set of new works designed and developed by a group of emerging practitioners. Six projects, diverse in concept and approach, will be implemented over the course of the day on the way up to Mt. Lee Drive and the backside of The Hollywood Sign. Participants include Corey Fogel, Nicholas Hanna, Narineh Mirzaeian, Guvenc Ozel, MÁS, and Elly Ward.



Five U-Haul trucks transformed into pop-up galleries on Sunday, June 2, 2013 in front of MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Downtown Los Angeles. Courtesy On the Road Project LA, Photo © Jaime Kowal.


Each exhibitor staged their work within or in relation to the trucks. Some works were displayed while others were participatory or interactive real time installations such as Bryony Roberts’ “Between Coherence and Incoherence.” Courtesy On the Road Project LA, Photo © Jaime Kowal.


Occupying the isolated space of a highway median and adjacent courtyard space, our second event explored the concept of threshold and boundary. The AFA (American Fine Architecture) produced a deconstructed couch wrapped in silver metallic shrink-wrap on the median of Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village. Courtesy On the Road Project LA, Photo © Erskine Bonilla.


Our third program took place on November 17, 2013 across various residential sites West of La Brea Avenue. On the Road participant Clark Thenhaus engages with and responds to Frank Gehry’s Norton House on Venice Beach in the format of a standard 4”x6” postcard and mailbox. Courtesy On the Road Project LA, Photo © Jaime Kowal.


On the Road reinvents Allan Kaprow’s happening Fluids, 1967 as Fluids Mashup, 2014, part of a weekend-long exhibition titled “Pleasure Pools” at the Amado in Central Palm Springs from February 22-23, 2014. Courtesy Allan Kaprow Estate and Hauser & Wirth, © Jaime Kowal.


David Freeland, Terry Chatkupt, Mark Lyons, and Peter Vikar’s installation Deep End floats the Amado’s pool. Courtesy On the Road Project, Photo © Jaime Kowal.


Al Que Quiere’s primary forms drift across the pool as part of Maura Lucking’s curated installation In, On and Around (Data Pooling). Projects by Maura Lucking, Kate Yeh Chiu, Benedikt Groß, and Joseph K. Lee in the background. Courtesy On the Road Project LA, Photo © Jaime Kowal.


Open Waters featured a group of emerging LA-based architects, designers and artists to create work that considered the liquid space of the pool. Ben Warwas and Berenika Boberska (pictured) with their respective projects, “Jesus was a formalist” and “Palm Springs Bestiary.” Courtesy On the Road Project LA, Photo © Jaime Kowal.


Artist Lisa Madonna’s broken glass cubes are inserted into the Amado’s pool. Courtesy On the Road Project LA, Photo © Jaime Kowal.


On the Road's final stop will coincide with a view that looks down over the city and the Hollywood sign on May 17 from 10am-2pm. For more information click here.


Note: All responses were jointly answered by On the Road organisers; Danielle Rago / Curator, Courtney Coffman / Editor, Jonathan Louie / Protagonist, and James Michael Tate / Instigator.

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