When you think of art institutions in downtown L.A., you likely think of The Broad, MoCA, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel—but probably not Union Station. And yet, the train hub continues to roll out unusual and interesting exhibitions as part of its inaugural summer entertainment series, making them something of a cultural dark horse. On August 6, they’re debuting Cabinet of Curiosities, a peculiar installation in the Grand Waiting Room that could be described as a modern-day peep show. Full disclosure: If you’re a voyeur and the term “peep show” got you all hot and bothered, move on, nothing to see here. The peepable aspect of it involves tiny scenes seen through a magnifying glass.
The centerpiece of Cabinet of Curiosities is a plywood rectangle measuring 16’ by 8’ by 8’. Attached to the walls of the rectangle’s interior are seven original displays by seven L.A. artists (Tanya Brodsky, David DiMichele, Ashley Hagen, Noel Korten, Keith Lord, Cecilia Miniucchi, and Andre Yi). Scattered across the surface of the wood are small holes through which passersby can see the various scenes. “The artists are creating these other worlds,” curator Carl Berg says. “In some cases it’s based on narratives. Some may involve family stories. Others may be more abstract.”
Berg explains that the variety of works is meant to reflect the myriad types of people passing through the station: art students, children, commuters, and so on. The construct of the installation makes it something of a great equalizer; every audience member sees the displays through the same peep holes, but they have to do it one at a time. “An important part of this is that it sort of requires so much of the viewer,” Berg says, “which is something that has become less and less with [electronic] entertainment. There will be hidden things. If you don’t look long enough, you’ll miss them.”
Berg doesn’t expect every single person who walks by to stop and stare (not a OneRepublic reference), but he hopes the intimacy of the exhibition will provide viewers with a unexpected private moment in a very public space. “Some are interested and some aren’t, but if you can get some people to slow down and be interested and want to look again, that’s the greatest thing you can have happen.”
Cabinet of Curiosities will be on display at Union Station from August 6-31. A reception will be held on August 7 from 3pm-6pm with Carl Berg and the artists behind the displays.