Freeway Studies was a multi-year, multi-exhibition curatorial endeavor organized by Meg Linton, Director of Galleries and Exhibitions, with the assistance of Jeseca Dawson, 2012-2014 Curatorial Fellow, at the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design.
We gave ourselves the task of surveying the Los Angeles art scene one studio at a time beginning with the immediate vicinity of Otis’ Main Campus located in the area known as Westchester and working our way outward. Some might say (ourselves’ included), this was an impossible task since Los Angeles County spans 4,038 square miles and is home to 88 individual municipalities, multiple unincorporated areas, and two off-shore islands, Santa Catalina and San Clemente.
We saw this project as a curatorial dérive—an attempt to break out of or go beyond existing preconceptions and knowledge. Our self-imposed geographic parameters combined with word-of-mouth referrals, had us ping-ponging our way from studio to studio in order to expand the existing conversation, creative network, and rolodex. Instead of a Situationist’s walking exploration of the urban environment, we were stepping into artists’ physical work spaces to discover their ideas and modes of production from first-hand experience rather than relying on a mediated experience. We saw our process as a mash-up between a dérive, to expand an analog network between curator, artist and institution, and an idiosyncratic Grand Tour on a micro-regionalist level.
Our strategy was simple, yet our commitment was vast. We plotted and charted our directive into manageable quadrants by using the freeways as borders for this investigation of art being made in this diverse and complex metropolis. Negotiating the freeways and traffic are a part of life in Los Angeles. In 1939, the expressways were originally envisioned as a way to alleviate pressure on existing public transportation until the rail system (we’re still waiting) could be completed. However, today they are more like natural borders such as rivers, ravines or mountain ranges because they have become both physical and psychological barriers for people engaging in daily life and the vast cultural offerings of this region.
In addition to dividing the city into manageable segments by the highway system, we limited our “research” phase for each area/exhibition to a 6-9 month window for conducting studio visits. We knew we couldn’t get to every artist studio and we couldn’t include every artist in the resulting exhibition because the Maltz Gallery is only so large. So, in the interest of inclusion and transparency, we created this blog to document and share every studio visit along the way. We hope this blog becomes a resource for the community.
–Meg Linton & Jeseca Dawson
The following are the designated areas/exhibitions:
This area is defined as: West of the 405, North of the 105, South of the 10 and the Pacific Ocean. Dawson and Linton conducted studio visits July 1- December 7, 2012. The exhibition is on view April 13 – June 1, 2013.
Freeway Studies #2: Inside the Quad
This area is defined as: East of the 405, North of the 105, West of the 110, South of the 10. Dawson and Linton will be conducting studio visits June – December 2013. The exhibition is scheduled to be on view June 28 – September 6, 2014.
Freeway Studies #3: In the Loop
This area is defined as inside the 10, 110 and 5. Some studio visits were conducted in 2013. The project is currently on hold.
Meg Linton is the Director of Galleries and Exhibitions, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Recent exhibitions/projects include Doin’ It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building as part of the Getty’s initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980; Meticulosity, co-curated with John David o’Brien; Revenge of Phantasmagoria a site-specific installation with Mark Dean Veca at the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara, Mexico; and In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor for the Laguna Art Museum.
Jeseca Dawson is the 2012-2014 Curatorial Fellow, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design and a recent graduate of the MFA Public Practice program at Otis College of Art and Design. She is a video performance artist and photographer who explores issues around systemic violence in American culture. Her recent work, Home of the Braver, questions the blind patriotism of our time, focusing specifically on class, patriarchy and xenophobia. Her social justice advocacy began with the Multicultural Experience in Leadership Development (MELD), part of Wayne State University’s Center for Peace & Conflict Studies in Detroit, MI and The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond-Undoing Racism.
Image above is taken from Thomas Guide 2007, page 702.