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Billboards For Art, Not Ads

March 9, 2010
David Lamelas

David Lamelas addresses aspiration for self-criticality and emancipation from the art world's dependency on cult or star status, and a full-scale assimilation of the technologies of both media and spectacle culture.

Hey, could this be a solution for Sao Paulo’s “billboard cemetery“? Fill ’em up with public art, like How Many Billboards? Art in Stead is doing in LA. Organized by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, this large-scale urban exhibition debuts 21 newly commissioned works by leading contemporary artists, presented simultaneously on billboards in Los Angeles in February and March 2010.

Excerpts from Kimberli Meyer, the Director’s statement:

“The philosophical proposition of the exhibition is simple: art should occupy a visible position in the cacophony of mediated images in the city, and it should do so without merely adding to the visual noise. How Many Billboards? Art In Stead proposes that art periodically displace advertisement in the urban environment.”

Martha Rosler with Josh Neufeld emphasize the desperate need for Americans to come together to address today's social inequities in order to secure our own future.

Kory Newkirk’s billboard on Wilshire Boulevard opposite MacArthur Park is a self-portrait of the artist with a large white snowball stuffed in his mouth, a symbolic act of self-censorship and a sly play on the figure of speech "tongue-in-cheek."

“Billboards are a dominant feature of the landscape in Los Angeles. Thousands line the city’s thoroughfares, delivering high-end commercial messages to a repeat audience. Given outdoor advertising’s strong presence in public space, it seems reasonable and exciting to set up the possibility for art to be present in this field. The sudden existence of artistic speech mixed in with commercial speech provides a refreshing change of pace.”

Kenneth Anger’s “Astonish” can function as recognition of the media’s ability to astonish, as a critique of its power over the public, or perhaps, as a call for the media to step up its game and actually create something that can truly astonish.

“Commercial messaging tells you to buy; artistic messaging encourages you to look and to think.”

Kira Lynn Harris highlights LA's iconic yet possibly underappreciated Watts Towers, internationally known and loved as a prime work of "outsider art."

Kerry Tribe gives the viewer a mental break from the onslaught of visual imagery to simply ponder what the image might be, and what purpose it may serve.

Yvonne Rainer plainly presents an enigmatic quote from grand Hollywood dame Marlene Dietrich, casting a critical light on various scenarios that contribute to women’s oppression-social, political and physical.

“Los Angeles public space begs for smart art to break up the monotony of everyday media fare, and the billboard provides a fertile position for artists who work critically and site-responsively to test their ideas in urban media space. Contemporary art gains a momentarily broad audience, and city dwellers are extended a daily invitation to reflect and contemplate. Channels are opened for experimentation, innovation, and cultural exchange.”

James Welling experiments with photogram abstractions, so that onlookers mentally slow down and think, prompting a self-conscious process of looking.

Daniel Joseph Martinez's piece reads "The disappointment of a fanatical searcher of the truth, who saw through trickery of an authoritarian world filled with illusions."

Jennifer Bornstein's copied and enlarge etching of an Eiki 16mm film projector atop a simple wood crate signal the celluloid's imminent demise in today's digital environment.

“The art cannot be passive. It must take a strategic approach, be critically oriented, and explore the billboard as a site.”

via fubiz

3 Comments leave one →
  1. yoidles1 permalink
    March 9, 2010 4:19 pm

    i think that’s a great idea. It Might also provide an opportunity to add to the economy since the advertisement / marketing segment took a hit with the legislation.

    i think that the main obstacle would be the separation between art and advertisement. If they only allowed art on the billboards, i’m sure that some innovative companies would find a way to promote themselves via “art.”

  2. March 19, 2010 6:21 pm

    I agree with Yoidles1 that this is a great idea…but now, however, in our current economic environment. We should remember that this project probably wouldn’t be happening if it were not for the recession, and the fact that art is propping up these media companies to make them seem like they’re “cool” is the exact opposite from their reality.

    All in all, the general public audience to these art billboards don’t win–we’re irrelevant. The real winners are the media and insurance companies who make money off of the concept that drivers’ eyeballs are worth something. It’s sad, really.


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