Proposal for 2024 FOCA Curators Award
Rewilding the Los Angeles River, not gentrification or capping. Our dream: the return of the Steelhead trout through re-establishment of the wetlands, intelligent concrete redesign, a gravel-bottomed meandering river, with a more consistent flow and less extraction. Listen to the conservation groups, whose views reflect a far greater holistic view of our wellbeing, the welfare of the environment at large.
We are a small and diverse group of artists who create work based upon and around the L.A. River. Each with unique forms of expression and interests, we share a view of the river's exploitation, and development. Far from plein air artists, we walk tracts of the river; then back at the studio we filter and catalogue our notations to make work. For this project we choose our river; it is a theme that has given a unifying dialogue to us within our own studio practices. While many Angelenos are unaware of the river's existence or history, our project will repond to and bring to light the river's many faces; those that look backward and those that face a future that is not certain. Our project is titled 51, in reference to the river’s course from the western San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. Just as the river’s identity shifts as it travels, as apolitical artists we independently take license for our own visions. For this project at the North Broadway gallery, we will show smaller works. Concurrently, already produced large canvases will be exhibited in further venues in a predominately visual
experience with accompanying narratives, notations, and poetry.
It is L.A.’s way to erase history and nature - as with the city, the river is a storied player, with its iconic bridges, seen/unseen tropes, and conflicted past. Following a series of deadly seasonal floods, in 1938 the river was canalised and fenced off, removing its river status, redefining it as a drainage system akin to other public services and effectively concealing it from public imagination. Decades later and with greater environmental comprehension, the L.A. River Master Plan is designed to re- evaluate the river. 51 will speak to the Plan’s ecological features that we value such as allowing for intentional green spaces, slower surface water drain-off, a systems-based hydrologic and hydraulic regime that reconnects the river to historic floodplains and tributaries. We take issue with certain gentrification and public leisure-driven design elements, especially the scheme to cap two areas near the confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Rio Hondo in South Gate, vast covered areas, sending our river out of sight both for native flora and fauna. Will the proposed capping remove the environmentally important L.A. River’s navigable status.
The paintings, publication and supporting works in 51 create dialog about the river. In responding to its plight, we express our dreams through our own works only with subtle inference; deeper thinking is preferred, not one-liners or overt propaganda.