I’m a sucker for sidebars. Small boxes filled with tantalizing stats about a certain topic, augmented by a pie chart or per cent breakdown lure my eye away from a substantive narrative article almost every time. Now imagine an exhibition based on the sidebar concept and you have an approximation of Windshield Perspective currently on view at A+D Museum through July 9th, 2013.
The topic of the exhibition is a stretch of Beverly Blvd. here in Los Angeles. The windshield in question acts as framing device, lens and shield in the act of viewing this segment, from Normandie to Virgil. The framing device restricts our field of vision. The lens magnifies and focuses our attention on the stories contained in each building. The shield inevitably distances us from the immediate experience of both the present and the history. Driving is different than walking.
Any exhibition which takes a drive, both literally and metaphorically, owes a huge debt to Ed Ruscha who in 1966 created a photographic project documenting every building on the Sunset Boulevard. Along with artists like Lee Friedlander, Vija Clemins and Dennis Hopper, Ruscha created a visual language based in the experience of “behind the wheel” perspective. It is unfortunate that this exhibition doesn’t touch on the artistic precedence especially since it is such an inherently west coast if not Los Angeles experience. That said, the premise and the exhibition yields rich and unexpected rewards in ethnographic, demographic and anthropologic veins.
The exhibit presents a wealth of information on the city blocks of its focus. It would be an amazing IPad App especially if one were on the actual street and the narratives would unfurl as one ambles down the block. In such, the show, expertly curated by Greg Golden, acts like an ethnographic Zillow. Ownership trajectories, occupant vocations and geographic arcs unfurl in front of you. The history of development and neighborhood identity reveal themselves while reading the copious information.
The exhibit makes excellent use of large scale printing. These are not only applied directly to the wall but also to cut outs that create jarring and engaging tableaux. One can spend hours digesting the facts and stories and lists.
As fascinating as all this information is, the question that arises as one leaves the exhibition is “Where’s the thesis?” With such an abundance of information and history, there doesn’t seem to an actual conclusion. While the dispassionate presentation of materials is thoughtful, well organized, visually engaging and to the best of my acuity, accurate, there doesn’t seem to be a strong narrative voice. Seeing Alex Gibney‘s riveting documentary Park Avenue recently on Netflix streaming I was struck by this fact in stark relief. If a filmmaker would fail to come to a conclusion after a tsunami of research, the film would be deemed a disappointment of misplaced potential. Gibney states his conclusion in them first five minutes and lets the assembled material, statiscal, interpretative and anecdotal, support his thesis.
But maybe it’s visual journalism that A+D is after rather than the editorial column. If that’s the case then kudos and congratulations.
The wistful suspicion though is that the exhibition is the love child of a talented graphic designer and a hyper zealous fact checker. A cantankerous opinionated author is nowhere in sight.
Windshield Perspective at A+D Museum, 6032 Wilshire Blvd. through July 9th, 2013
-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, June 28th, 2013
also by Mario M. Muller
- Mid-Century Modern at LAMA Auction House, Van Nuys - February 20th, 2014
- Robert Therrien at Gagosian, Beverly Hills - January 22nd, 2014
- Art Fair Season in Los Angeles - January 15th, 2014
- Roy Dowell at Various Small Fires - October 14th, 2013
- Leon Benn at Carter & Citizen - September 13th, 2013