Art for the Expo Line: Ephemeral Views by Ronald Llanos

Ronald Llanos speaks with Saskia Siebrand, Creative & Technical Director, Mosaika Art & Deisgn about his work for Expo/Western Station.

Ronald Llanos describes himself as a visual journalist. “My images are inspired by people and by the places I travel to or frequent,” he says.

Ron collects drawings in a sketchbook while people watching in a café or walking through Los Angeles neighborhoods. He creates thousands of quick sketches of people engaging in city life: talking with friends, walking past businesses carrying shopping bags, pushing a baby carriage or talking on a cell phone. These vignettes become the subject matter for zines – small self-published magazines that tell a story about a particular place at a moment in time. You can see more of Ronald’s images and follow his blog here.

Ronald Llanos shares pages of his sketchbook documenting his urban adventures.

In preparing the artwork designs for the Expo/Western Station, Ronald spent time filling his sketchbook with drawings of people and activities he observed around the station area. He then mapped the art panels at the platforms to unfold like the pages of an open book. A series of 16 watercolor paintings describe scenes from the local neighborhood.

Ronald’s watercolor paintings have a fresh, spontaneous quality to them. The task of translating his translucent washes of color into a hard, permanent material was a challenge. Artisans at Mosaika Art & Design traced Ronald’s designs onto ceramic tile and added thin layers of glaze to preserve the feel of the artist’s hand in the work. Next the work was fired, cut into small pieces and placed within the panels.

Hand glazed art tiles are cut into small pieces then placed within the art panels.

Speaking about the artwork for Expo/Western Station Ronald says, “I feel that if I search within myself for that which I find interesting about the places and people of those areas, I might be able to communicate with people across time.”

Art panels in process at Mosaika's shop.

Art panel depicting neighborhood teens.

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22 replies

  1. growing up in los angeles viewing murals along the 101, bizarre art sculptures like chicken boy on broadway, the multi color paddle boats in mac arthur park, and the vast spectacle of the cement laden la river are among such great foundations that represent a sense of place and permanence even whilst every lot is being razed and refurbed into another shiny construct of the rustless moment…

    these irregular cut mosaic murals by llanos propel me back to preserving the idea of la as a timeless place.

    one can only hope that the MTA continues to promote art in this same vein as what it feels like to walk the streets of la…

  2. Public art is important.
    It sometimes can be the only access some people have to art.
    Public art is inclusive.
    It is for everyone.

  3. The local cities that the stations reside in should pay for the art. Each city could “brand” their station. And they could even solicit corporate donations (many of which would be local) to pay for it.

  4. Let’s also not forget that the commissioning of artwork creates local employment opportunies for the artists as well as those who translate their works unto the appropriate media. Last I checked a few extra jobs around here sure wouldn’t hurt our local economy.

  5. These economic times certainly do make it necessary to make hard choices. However, I see that as an excuse so many times to cut funding for the arts as well as vital public services. The arts speaks to our collective humanity and helps to bind community and it is important not to hastily judge that as ‘optional’. I’m sure many people who hold the purse strings are very happy to maintain this scarcity mentality so that we can enable them to take more and more away from us. I agree that we definitely need public transit and an efficient system of bus service, especially in a city as widespread as Los Angeles. However cutting arts is not the solution.

  6. In light of all the talk about money it does seem strange regarding the Art, as that is something that could be done later, but to be fair 0.5 percent is not very much.

    Much of the reason the expo line is over budget and not on time is due to enhancements to the line in the form of the grade separations in Culver City and under Figueroa/exposition. Those are good things. They will make the line faster and safer because they eliminate the potential problems inherent to at-grade crossings (ie. conflicts with autos and people, possible speed restrictions, lack of signal preemption on street-running sections etc.) Im glad they added those and wish there were a lot more just like that but unfortunately its still too limited as it is. The line will be better because of it but I really hope it gets signal preemption in the street running sections otherwise fewer people will ride it.

  7. Dan: “The problem is, the Expo line is SO far over budget and SO far behind schedule”

    The project is significantly behind schedule, but it is currently only $13 million over budget. The budget is $898 million. The budget was increased by the Metro Board (mostly elected representatives) because (1) the scope increased and (2) the cost of materials increased.

    Dan: “Are the planners completely tone deaf?”

    The planners are complying with the law which requires .5% to be budgeted for art. If you want the law changed, you’re welcome to lobby for it. But for this project, the contracts were signed years ago. It would not benefit anyone to pull the plug at this point, the end of the project.

  8. Art is a necessary element of civic upkeep, and not merely a luxury. While it is true that the application of a sculpture to a courtyard and murals within train stations indicate affluence, where there may actually be little, it is important to note the civic tranquility, and likely boost in commercial productivity, that this art may also promote. The economy of Los Angeles thrives due to tourism, entertainment, and its industrious domestic population. The collection of these assets place the city far apart from many others, and support our legacy as a worldwide icon. It is so disappointing to read that some people fail to see the necessity of supporting public arts. It reminds me of those who have stripped Arts funding away from the Los Angeles Unified School District, in favor of a core curriculum & so-called “practicality,” without practical skills development(e.g. MORE Standardized Testing), when its students live in a city with one of the largest art-based industries in the world. De-funding the arts is tantamount to the outsourcing of talent that is draining Los Angeles of its vitality, and ability to recover from the current economic slump. And to legitimately foresee the renaissance that Los Angeles will soon experience requires that small bit of imagination, hope, and appreciation that only our arts can provide. I am thankful for the works like these by Ronald Llanos, to restore our inspiration.

  9. Art is optional. Period. The trains can run just fine without the art. In these fiscally precarious times, we must reevaluate the role of government and where our precious pennies have to go to keep the wheels moving. If your family had a choice to buy food to eat or a painting – what would you do? That is where we are today with the state budget. All projects need to be ranked in order of importance – that is what Gov Brown is doing (I hope) and our tax dollars will go towards maintaining vital government services – not make them look pretty – just making sure they are actually operating. As much as I like art, we need to be realistic right now. Maybe later we will have the funds to beautify the stations.

  10. I’m glad to see this art on the Metro. Work like this adds to our sense of community.

  11. Public art such as this can often serve as a communities’ only close experience with fine art. It has been noted that public art can help stimulate and foster thoughtful creativity and create a sense of community pride, in turn creating more conscientious and civic-minded individuals. Public art projects should not be classified as “nice” to have, but necessary indeed.

  12. The problem is, the Expo line is SO far over budget and SO far behind schedule, that when you read articles like this, you can’t help but wonder, what the heck is going on here? Where is the sense of urgency. Are the planners completely tone deaf? We have not seen any articles on the delays of the Expo line or the cost overruns- expect in the LA Weekly (can we get a specific date as to when it will open at least?). This article makes Metro look like Nero fiddling while Rome is burning.

  13. Thanks to Jarrett Walker for pointing out the funding protocol. Personally, I’m really pleased to be seeing this art. It makes our travel spaces into -human- spaces.

  14. It has been proven that stations with art are generally treated with more respect by the people that use them. Across the country it has been shown that there is less grafitti, less trash, and fewer issues than ones without art. Generally, it is a safer, more healthy, more interesting environment, a good investement indeed.

  15. I think it’s great that this artist has been given an opportunity to contribute to his city! Don’t know about you, but most artist’s I know aren’t living in Penthouses. I’m sure the MTA budgeted modestly to the project, and am just glad to see them choosing to fund someone’s creativity and hard work.

  16. @Dan H:

    I wouldn’t get too worried about the art gobbling up our money. MTA policy dictates that 0.5% of rail construction costs go to art. Not much at all. And for such a small cost, it can go a long way to improve the customer experience.

  17. Dan H

    Thank you for pointing out

    Tobias/Renee Gunter
    Amid the budget crisis, people just care of the work. The most important thing is finish the project on time on budget.

    Let’s time forget, MTA is cutting the budget on the bus service. Many people just care about rail and don’t bother without good local connections, how could people get to station without cars.

    Some people (such as MTA and people loike you) just don’t get it

  18. Artwork for transit falls under “Nice to have” not “need to have” – in this economic climate “Need to have” is the only thing that should get the green light. Build it first – then figure out later how to put the art up later – when things are more flush. I love art, but I love mass transit more. And if stuff like this puts the funding in a bad light – then it probably needs to be done quietly if at all.