Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chalk Outlines

On Sunday LACMA held an impromptu sending off of its parking lot, soon to be remolded into the Broad Contemporary Art Museum designed by architect Renzo Piano. Oh Eli Broad. You who decimated LA’s landscape into urban/suburban dread. Your benevolence is astounding. But wait! This isn’t just any parking lot. In 2000, husband and wife Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen transformed the lot into an enclave of street spirit artistry. They painted murals on the walls for LACMA’s “Made in California” exhibit. And now their work will join the transitory realm of the forgotten and reborn, like so much in this city (related LA Weekly article.)

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The drive west on Wilshire to the lot’s dénouement saw us passing the ruins of the once gorgeous Ambassador Hotel where RFK was killed. The parallels were noted. When we got to the lot’s rooftop, the sounds of chill dance music poured over the tableau of hunched children chalking the lot with their drawings. Piquant, precious, kind of a fine, vaguely ritualistic way to celebrate the end of something so commonplace as a parking lot, but then, a lot imbued with excellent art. The kids had been at it all day. There were great exuberant works, like an earth’s globe, finished and abandoned, little chalk nubs left behind, funereal stones of remembrance. The best was a pink car drawn from a bird’s eye view. The perspective of the vehicle was all askew, as if the car’s skin was laid out on the pavement to dry, figures in the window said, “Boo boo!” A guy in green pants and shades saw us asorbed in the car and said, “I just want to get in it. I wish it was real.” Some adults joined in chalk play, creating chalk Shivas or gallivanting amongst the kiddies who were too young to see how they were participating in something futile, but then the childlike element made the futility of the event hopeful, a celebration of the transitory, the chaos of it all. Yes. Thank you Eli Broad! Thank you for taking something beautiful away, if only to give us a beautiful moment on a beautiful day (the wind seems to have blown away the filth, if only for a crisp moment) where we can stop and see the children create something beautiful that will vanish all too soon. Walking back to the car, the tractors parked, in wait for the imminent demolition, looked like they belonged in the tar pits, dinosaurs, the implements of incessant forgetting, modernity, progress. They seemed like fossil relics from the past. Perfect.


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