While the traditional ways in which we consume culture in person, especially when it comes to viewing visual art, have quickly diminished with museums, galleries and other venues closed due to the pandemic, so have opportunities for artists diminished, limiting their reach in an already dire economic landscape.
But some galleries are finding ways to adapt.
Durden and Ray, an artist-run gallery space based in Los Angeles’ fashion district, has organized an outdoor art exhibition with works by 102 artists scattered in publicly accessible areas across the county from Long Beach to Pasadena to the San Fernando Valley, called We Are Here / Here We Are. The works are not meant to last and sit vulnerably in seemingly random locations where people not in the know of what they’re looking at may feel amused or confused. That’s part of its charm.
“Confine In Situ (Couch + Fridge)” by artist Stephanie Sherwood. Courtesy Durden and Ray.
Dealing with a sense of loss from seeing his and most of his peers’ opportunities slip away—including artist residencies, fairs, performances and exhibitions—co-curator Sean Noyce wanted to find a positive way to draw attention to artists still creating.
“Wanting to lift people’s spirits while bringing light to the fact that many of us are still making art in our communities, I came up with the idea to show the work in the last space open to the public: our neighborhoods,” Noyce said. “Art doesn’t disappear just because our galleries do.”
Partially inspired by an outdoor exhibit in Copenhagen that featured two quintessential gallery walls taken out of context and placed in an open field, Noyce adapted the idea for a city using Google Maps and geolocation.
The map, easily viewed on a phone, tablet or desktop, shows the locations of all the artworks, while at each physical site a small placard provides information on the work, including a QR code that links to the map, more information about the show, as well as nearby artworks.
More than a dozen of the artists are showing pieces in Long Beach, including printmaker Abel Alejandre, muralist Cody Lusby, multi-discplinary artist Jennifer Celio and painter Stephanie Han.
From alleyways to yards, fences to telephone poles, the strange and unorthodox places these pieces have been left represent a larger idea exploring how the constraints of COVID-19 lockdowns have pushed more people to connect through technology, while ultimately still leaving even more of a desire to connect in person. Viewers are encouraged, if they visit a site, to avoid socializing and follow social distancing guidelines.
In Long Beach, a piece by local artist and co-curator Jennifer Celio sits on the cement walkway outside of an entrance to an apartment complex. The sculpture, a fake flower on top of a speaker component, is an “assemblage,” but could easily be misconstrued as well, not art.
Then, there’s an installation by Stephanie Sherwood made of discarded furniture. Someone might call the city to have what looks like an old couch and left-behind refrigerator picked up, but on second glance might stop to wonder at who would have painted such things and so well.
In place of a traditional opening reception, Durden and Ray is discouraging people from gathering and asking them to post on social media if they visit any of the sites throughout the county.
The outdoor exhibition opens Saturday, May 16 at 12 p.m. and runs through Saturday, June 20. For more information, visit durdenandray.com.
“Since We Are Here / Here We Are is a rare opportunity for a visceral experience, rather than a virtual one, we think people should see the exhibit in real life in their own neighborhoods whenever possible,” said co-curator Sean Noyce. “The novelty in this show is being personally connected to the work while remaining socially distant. In this case, the celebration is the art, not the social experience.”