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.
L. Ron Drunkard,
Artists are no different than any skilled craftsman; it’s a skill that is valued by society and with what comes with value, someone is willing to pay for it. If I know how to make beautiful art and put up an exhibit on the internet or on display at an art gallery or go to convention halls or set up a shop on Venice Beach, and if someone is willing to pay me a good money for it, I will do it.
If Coca-Cola or Toyota or whatever corporation sees my art and they want to pay me $10,000 for it, I’m not going to turn down that offer. I see it as them valuing my skill and they are willing to pay me good money for my work. If an animation company like Pixar likes my art portfolio as is going to give me a $60,000 / yr salary for it, I will take it.
Yes, yes, yes, but they’ll be using as an ad and be making billions off selling product, down with capitalism, it’s evil, it’s called being a sell out, blah-blah-blah. Yes, I’ve heard all of them and frankly, it’s just the same repetitive rhetoric that is nothing but idealism that doesn’t work in the real world.
“They work there because society doesn’t value art and creativity the same way it values consumerism”
I feel sorry for you that you look at that way. Society does value art and creativity, it’s usually those like you who downplay struggling artists to conform to your ideals that they shouldn’t go after profit making or making money off of it. We live in the real world, not a fantasy world. The real world, whether you like it or not, is that the United States of America is a capitalist society – making money comes first to get ahead in real life.
Whether you like it or not, money is needed to survive and people can’t live without making money; that’s how the real world works here. If I have a skill that is valued by society that they are willing to pay for it, then that’s what I’m going to do. This isn’t North Korea or Cuba, this is America, the land of opportunity and success, and there’s nothing wrong with chasing after success, including artists and crafts people.
And if there are other artists out there, then those are my competition to outbeat them for my own survival. If they see me as a sell out for working for a corporation or making money off of my own art, I really don’t care. What I do with my own art is none of their business and in the end, I’m the one having food on the table while they struggle to sell their stuff on Venice Beach. The real world is full of competition and so long as America is capitalist, I am going to outdo the other guy to sell my art to get ahead in life. If you know anything about Andy Warhol, that’s exactly what he did to get ahead in life.
“They are attempts by corporations to sell something…”
Welcome to capitalism. I see nothing wrong with capitalism and unfortunately not everyone agrees with you that it’s evil. Is your next step forcing socialism down our throats whether we like it or not?
“And as for revenue, I suspect you have no idea how much money it takes to run Metro. The amount of revenue that could be generating selling these spaces to advertisers is akin to looking for change in your couch cushions to make your monthly mortgage payment.”
About $5.5 billion a year in budget most of them from taxpayer dollars. Every single penny that Metro can do to earn money on their own, the better to reduce taxpayer burden. Not a valid excuse that Metro looking into ad revenue is too small to run Metro. Every small amount counts so long as taxpayers are the ones paying to run Metro. Even if ads are able to make additional $1 million in revenue, that’s $1 million in less reliance on tax dollars to run Metro, $1 million that can be distributed to other areas like schools and police instead.
“It’s just not worth polluting our public spaces with advertisements for a few pennies and some stale popcorn kernels….”
You have your view, I have mine. I don’t see ads as polluting, I see them as fact of life. I just see reality, you live in a dream world. If you don’t like to see ads corrupting your mind, I suggest living out in the desert. You live in an urban area, where many people live, it’s a no brainer that that’s where all the ads are going to be. Europe and Asia does it, they have lots of ads at train stations, they have far better mass transit systems than we do, so it they must know what they are doing.
Creative Ads,thanks for showing us, well, a bunch of advertisements. You have missed the point entirely. I never said that artists don’t sell their art or work for money. I said they do not do art for the sake of money. They make art because that is what they do and who they are as humans. They would still make art (albeit, on their own time) if they worked at WackArnolds flipping burgers or WallyWorld arranging boxes on store shelves. You seem to have cause and effect completely reversed. Artists do not work for places like marketing firms because they love to sell soda pop. They work there because society doesn’t value art and creativity the same way it values consumerism, so the advertising industry is one of the few places one can get paid for being “creative”.
Ask any artist who works for a marketing firm if, given the ability to make the same money, they would prefer to create work that stood on its own as a piece of art, or make something that’s ultimate purpose is to sell a product to make money for a multi-national corporation. You’d find very few that would stay in marketing if they had the option of making a living from their own art. And this is why public art programs like the Metro’s are so valuable – they provide valuable income to artists so that they do not have to debase their creativity with advertising.
No matter how artistic these ads you’ve mentioned are (and that’s a highly debatable assertion), they are still advertisements! They are attempts by corporations to sell something that nobody probably needs to people that already have more than they can use and probably can’t afford anyway. Sure, advertisements can be artistic and creative (I never said they couldn’t be), but regardless of the beauty one might find in such an ad, when the prime motive is to make a buck and continue unsustainable consumerism, that beauty is only skin deep.
As for art getting “boring”, its hard to imagine anything more boring than another Coca-Cola ad. Oh, what will the polar bear do next?!?!? The art exhibits in this instance are not permanent and will be changed out periodically. And as for revenue, I suspect you have no idea how much money it takes to run Metro. The amount of revenue that could be generating selling these spaces to advertisers is akin to looking for change in your couch cushions to make your monthly mortgage payment. It’s just not worth polluting our public spaces with advertisements for a few pennies and some stale popcorn kernels.
These exhibits look great! and the fact that they are in a space that is accessible to all classes equally, not just museum goers or upscale art patrons makes them even better. All people have a right to enjoy art but too often art is reserved for those who can afford it. These pieces will be seen by thousands of people/day from all walks of life and if you asked most folks, I bet they would appreciate that rather than another ad for a cellphone plan or the latest Hollywood schlock, they can look at piece of artwork that asks nothing of them other than a moment of their attention.
The last thing we need in our public spaces is more advertising, which is what would surely fill this space if public art programs like this didn’t exist. The private sector has crept so far into our personal life and our public sphere that many people seem to not even realize what we’ve lost – the freedom to go about our day without being sold something everywhere we turn. Advertising has plenty of venues and media by which to reach us. Artists do not make art for the sake of making money so they can never compete with private sector marketing budgets for space to show their work. Artists need public spaces and the public needs art to view and enjoy without the cynical “catch” that even the most beautiful advertisement always carries with it – yeah, you looked at this image, and liked it, now buy this product!
“The last thing we need in our public spaces is more advertising, which is what would surely fill this space if public art programs like this didn’t exist. ”
I disagree as a taxpayer who rides Metro. What Metro needs to do is make money on their own to lessen taxpayer burden so more advertisement is the way Metro can earn more revenue income.
“Artists do not make art for the sake of making money…”
How was the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster created? It had to be drawn by someone (J. Howard Miller https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Howard_Miller), right?
And Mr. Miller was paid by someone (Westinghouse Electric) to do them, right?
If one gets paid to do artwork, then that’s called a job. Being an artist is a job, a job mean that person gets paid, getting paid means making money. Artists need to make money to live just like everyone else in this world. Artists need jobs, they need buyers, and they need to get their creativity out to the world.
It may surprise you to know that marketing firms these days are always on the look out on places like DeviantArt, Pinterest, and other art sharing sites to hire artists for their marketing projects.
How do you think Coca-Cola ads like these were created?
“Artists need public spaces and the public needs art to view and enjoy without the cynical “catch” that even the most beautiful advertisement always carries with it – yeah, you looked at this image, and liked it, now buy this product!”
No one says you can’t combine creativity and ads and put the two together.
For example, this is an ad for Microsoft Silverlight specific to Taiwan, very cute and artistic!
This is an example in Japan of how they can combine anime art with the Japanese Red Cross society to donate blood:
I say this is a very good creative ad for a toothpaste don’t you? How do you think this was created? There must’ve been an artist working with a marketing firm behind it.
This German ad (yes, Germany, a country in Europe! If it’s Europe you should be for it because everything that Europe does is better, right?) on automated vending machines are really funny, creative and gets the point across.
Artists are creative thinkers. Creative thinking are an asset to marketing firms. That’s how artists make money in the real world – they get hired by marketing firms to come up with these things.
It gets both jobs done. Creative art while promoting a commercial product. Metro gets paid for being both artistic as well as ad revenue space. Far better than showing art that does absolutely nothing. Art gets boring after a while anyway, how long is this art going to be there? Forever? Artistic ads changes every now and then and will establish a constant revenue stream which is vital to keep Metro running.
I work near Union Station and often take the train.
First of all, I think the redesign is magnificent.
And thanks very much for this article because I also love the amazing photographs in the main corridor. The light boxes always put a smile on my face. The art reminds of LA’s vibrancy — that we’re not just commuters and consumers — that we’re also a community. Keep up the great work.
I’ve been through JFK’s American Airlines terminal many times and I really love that tunnel. It’s a great mix of putting in sound, music, lighting effects, art, and advertisement together. I agree Union Station needs to add that in their hall.
Of course, while we ooh and aah about this, the Japanese take it to the next step years ahead of us by putting in Kinect enabled digital monitors and uses that as an ad for an anime movie:
Combine art and ads. Then you will have the best of both worlds by showcasing art all the while making ad revenue. The possibilities are endless by installing flatscreen digital displays which are far more vibrant and exciting than standalone art.
Look to AA’s JFK Terminal 8’s “digital tunnel” by JCDecaux
I think that this is terrific. It makes our commute just a little more civilized. The back lit boxes with the film makes it as if you were looking out a window at life, not just a picture. I wish this successes and the addition of more black lit windows into our city. Also I would sure like to see just normal photographs in windows in public areas or along the tunnel. They could be from local artist, historical images of So Cal or transportation images from the MTA library.