This year’s Oscar nominations, which included zero non-white actors for the first time since, um, last year, sparked plenty of conversations on social media about how Hollywood can—and should—do better. Last night, the British-born street artist Plastic Jesus installed a piece of art on Melrose Avenue to continue that discussion.
The work features two sinks, one labeled “White” and covered with items including a champagne bottle, an Oscars statuette, and two Oscars invitations, and another dirty, plain basin labeled “Colored.” The artist says he hopes the piece, which references Elliott Erwitt’s famous photograph of two drinking fountains in the segregated South in 1950, will start a larger dialogue about race in America today.
“Some people criticize this piece by saying it’s not an Oscars problem,” he says. “I agree with that: It’s not an Oscars problem. It’s a Hollywood problem, and it’s equally an American problem. Sometimes with art, it’s important to contrast where we were with where we are now—both improvements or steps backwards. I chose this iconic photo from the ’50s to really say, ‘How much have we moved on?’”
This isn’t the artist’s first critique of Hollywood. He generated buzz last year with his enormous golden Oscars statue snorting lines of cocaine, which popped on Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue a few days before last year’s ceremony. He’s also made a life-sized Oscars statue shooting up heroin (displayed after the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a realistic-looking parking sign which reads, “No Kardashian Parking Anytime.”
His latest installation, which was taken down late this afternoon, will be up again this weekend, he says.