A new exhibition of three artists’ work is on display inside Union Station illuminating the passageway walls connecting Union Station East and West. Organized by Metro Art, the display consists of thirty-six lightboxes and showcases photographic artwork.
The presentation, titled “Divining Los Angeles Landscapes,” introduces 36 photographic artworks created by three prominent artists: Joyce Campbell, Ken Gonzales-Day and John Humble. Each artist contributed twelve photographs organized around themes of nature, the unnatural and supernatural.
This is only the second exhibition of artwork to enliven the passageway. The first photographic artworks to be featured celebrated Union Station as “The Heart of Los Angeles” on the occasion of its 75th anniversary in 2014.
Read below for more about each artist’s work.
Joyce Campbell’s series of photographs, titled In the Ether, documents the flora from two local sites: Crown Coach Yard, a 40-acre industrial brownfield in downtown Los Angeles, and the canyons around Glassell Park. The artworks present a photographic archive of the functional plants that inhabit Los Angeles. The images were produced onsite using a century-old field camera and an early photographic process called wet plate, which was invented in 1850, the same year that the city of Los Angeles was incorporated. The plant life depicted are primarily wildings and weeds that persist on the edges of urbanity and were originally cultivated by the area’s earliest settlers and indigenous peoples. Emphasizing the substantial changes that have occurred within the landscape and ecology of Los Angeles since the city’s founding, the collection of images highlight the many, largely forgotten, uses for these botanic specimens, ranging from food, medicine and weaponry as well as ceremonial and spiritual purposes.
Ken Gonzales-Day’s vibrant color photographs, titled Oak and Thistle: Views of the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains, feature Los Angeles County’s natural recreation areas and green spaces, which highlight the beauty of California’s landscape. The series depicts the rolling hills and native flora of western Los Angeles at Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyon and captures the foothill woodlands that run along the San Gabriel Mountains to the east through images taken at Descanso Gardens. By presenting the wilder edges of the Los Angeles landscape, the artist hopes to provide commuters and visitors to Union Station an opportunity for contemplation, and perhaps serve as an invitation to visit some of the many places where nature can still be enjoyed.
John Humble’s color photographs, titled Natura Urbanus, expand upon a long-term photographic project exploring the paradoxes and ironies of the Los Angeles landscape. Presented in sets of three, each artwork considers nature in relation to one of four themes: the Los Angeles River, power lines, artificial nature and freeways. Among the photographs are pictorial representations of the Los Angeles River, which has been exploited, encased in concrete, and has recently begun to be returned, in segments, to its natural state. Additionally, the artist points his lens toward the many miles of potted plants that exist in Los Angeles nurseries on leased land beneath the city’s vital power lines, where it is illegal to build permanent buildings. Manmade elements that imitate nature to make technology inconspicuous-such as manufactured trees used to camouflage cell phone towers-and the many natural elements that coexist with and in spite of the city’s freeways are also featured in this group of artworks.
“Divining Los Angeles Landscapes: Woodlands to Watersheds” will remain on display for approximately one year. New rotations of artworks will follow.
Initiated in 2001, the Metro Art Lightbox Program presents photography exhibitions that engage a broad range of Metro riders on their daily commute.