Up and down the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard occupied by LAXART‘s new Hollywood space, signs and advertisements shout instructions at passersby. Cash checks here. Buy weed there. In that sense, legendary L.A. artist Barbara Kruger’s new mural—with its commands to “Break it. Own it. Steal it. Loan it. Kiss it. Slap it. Hug it. Hurt it,” among other things—is a perfect fit. She even departed from her traditional color palette of red, black, and white to incorporate what I guess could be described as “modern dispensary green,” so it feels even more a part of its environment. Called “Untiled (It),” the mural, which covers the building’s entire facade, never establishes what “it” is, so “it” can be whatever the consumer desires. Does “it” even really matter when our desires change so constantly, as demonstrated by the streetscape?
The piece was commissioned by LAXART for the alternative art space’s relaunch, which has been two years in the works under director Hamza Walker. Located in Culver City since 2005, the gallery has taken on a big, new space to go with its sort of readjusted mission. “I was brought on, to be frank, to reboot the joint,” says Walker, who relocated from Chicago where he was a curator at the Renaissance Society. “Alternative spaces, it isn’t just that they have life cycles—there’s that, but that entails their being kind of recast relative to the times.” It’ll still be a place for emerging artists, but the mission has expanded to include “thematic exhibitions that engage with key issues of our time.”
When Walker was considering the facade project, it occurred to him that a lot of the key issues of our time aren’t terribly different from what they were in the ’80s. And for him, Barbara Kruger remains conduit that links that era to this one. “Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer—these are women artists whose work, scathing in its tone, seemed to really shine against Republican administrations,” Walker says. “So it’s like, welcome back. We had Bush and now it’s a whole other set of circumstances. We need Barbara Kruger now more than ever.”
They initially discussed the project in the fall, and in March he gave her the building’s architectural plans so she could go to work on whatever she envisioned.
Since “Untitled (It)” went up, it’s bemused and puzzled its share of people. Walker recalls, “A young woman dropped off her resumes looking for a job, and she said, ‘I walked past this place because I didn’t realize it was a gallery. I thought it was the most aggressive pawn shop I’ve ever seen.'”
On Thursday, as part of the relaunch festivities, Kim Gordon is joined by cellist Leila Bordreuil for a free improvisational performance.
In the meantime, here’s an exclusive video of a crew installing Kruger’s work.