Santa Monica – GROUPSC 2009, a consortium of fifty regional documentary artist-photographers, directed by Robert Benchley Society member Helen K. Garber, will showcase An Intimate View of Southern California at MOPLA’s opening reception at Bergamot Station as a featured installation. The exhibit will then travel to a downtown site, hosted by L.A. Center for Digital Art for the April 8 Downtown Art Walk. This is the third in a series of site-specific pop-up digital installations designed in collaboration with award –winning architectural design firm MINARC/Gallery SKART who will host an exhibition of GroupSC 2009 Artist Works on Paper at their Bergamot adjacent Gallery SKART through May.
Each of GROUPSC’s photographers has embedded their signature style into the documentation of the region’s unique neighborhoods where they reside, work or play, resulting in a gestalt of fifty, up-to-the-minute perspectives tinged with current affairs. Central to this year’s theme is a defunct trailer rescued and reclaimed by Project Director Garber, who, with the expert repair skills of Banning Discount RV of Beaumont, CA and Digital Director Chris Quilisch; Artist/Designer Duce; and the Minarc team, has recycled salvage parts from within the trailer and trailer yard, transforming it from a decaying piece of trash, into a mobile digital projection vehicle for GROUPSC2009’s forthcoming photo tours.
Garber is committed to “uniting the energy field” of LA and environs’ creative community by engaging local artists who are struggling to survive in tandem with the community-at-large. According to Nancy Louise Jones, Project Editor, Garber has brought talent together for a different type of showcase; one that makes a significant statement about our society, and about how we communicate with each other, to surmount the challenges in our personal careers as photo professionals. Jones: “What many people will never see is that Helen has managed through sheer persistence, love of life, love of art, caring for her peers and impeccable timing to coordinate an amazing group of professional and amateur photographers who would normally be disengaged from each other. She is making a statement with the power and strength of creative numbers.”
By taking the show on the road, Garber believes that geographically isolated neighborhoods and insular ethnic enclaves will be exposed to the breadth of our humanity with all of its beauty, variety and recessionary pain depicted.
Grown from last year’s GroupLA 2008, the expanded circumscribed territory is bounded by Santa Ynez/Northwest, San Diego/Southwest, Anza Borrego/Southeast, and Apple Valley/Northeast. Jones opines that “there is a trend in photography now to romanticize the landscape,” but “we live in a large city where there is a lot of loneliness and this year there is an abundance of shots void of humans, but you can still feel presence.” In portraying that loneliness, the images also convey “a sense of trying to connect to survive; when we’re looking through the trash for clothing or food, this project makes the statement, ‘you are not alone’.”
In the process of reviewing what has become a contemporary image archive, Jones has reveled in the artistic rendering that illuminates Redlands’ old Americana; sugarcoats the aftermath of the Santa Barbara fires; and turns an Eastside mired in ugly poverty into surreal beauty, in spite of “an undercurrent of people…out of touch with themselves because they are just trying to find food for their next meal…and boredom, sheer boredom…people walking through life with no more curiosity…” But the curiosity of the artists includes witnessing life through a hotel peephole; trying to comprehend a pathology that banishes sofas to street corners; and questioning why what was at one time dubbed trailer trash has become the new middle-class, living from parking space to parking space. All the while, Eagle Rock churches provide free sermons to us on surviving the economy vis-à-vis signage on their facades and front lawns.
In editing the show’ s narrative into digestible viewing nuggets, Jones selections include pictures that reveal last year’s ongoing desolation along the rural and urban landscape: amid the eclectic blend of wealth and poverty from Santa Monica to Marina del Rey; the desert’s hot, dried-out establishments under brilliant blue skies animated by Joshua Tree’s military outpost populated with “short stud-cuts,” Oxnard day-laborers, the underworld of South-central, foragers for food around the Midnight Mission, and the grit of alleyways in Boyle Heights.
But hope is not lost, evidenced by renewable desert and sea flora and fauna, life goes on for Isla Vista hippies, multi-tasking Burbank-to-Brentwood freeway commuters, the manicured lawns in suburbs of Lakewood, the Laguna Woods retirement community, and the mid-century architecture of Palm Springs. The celebratory mood moves from the daily zaniness that transits on and off Santa Monica’s pier and crowded beaches, toward gorgeous neon and gay life in West Hollywood, to the perennial Chinatown parade, and further east to Idyllwild’s crafty woods.
According to Rex Bruce, Director of LACDA, "This is an exhibit that has been needing to happen and is finally being realized. To put cogent documentation of the L.A. 'City State' on wheels and readied to make the great American road trip makes sense for a place that has more cars than people. Each area is represented by photographer artists that really know the experience there, so the flavor of the differing regions are captured in their stories told in an unusual and compelling manner for those who view the installation."
Garber likens the mobile concept to a travelogue that travels. “People used to go on adventures and bring back the photos… We are reversing the experience…taking the photos on the adventure…taking our home on the journey.”