We who live and work in El Segundo know LAX intimately, in a way most other communities don't. Because of the city's close proximity to the airport, we who spend so much time here are familiar with busy takeoff and landing times, air traffic patterns, and the effect different weather has on jet-engine noise.
The ever-present role LAX plays in our daily lives makes the new GROUNDED exhibit at ESMoA feel very personal and relatable, in a way it might not were it presented in a different city.
For this exhibit, curator Colin Westerbeck brought together two artists who photographed two different aspects of LAX thirty years apart. Zoe Crosher's "Out the Window (LAX)" photos, taken in the early 2000s, are best described in her own words: "Out the Window (LAX) is a project examining space and transience around the Los Angeles International airport. This project investigates LAX and its surrounding infrastructure as a point of non-center, a metaphor for Los Angeles, captured from surrounding satellite positions. For it, I mapped and photographed planes coming in to land, through windows from inside the thirty-one hotels running along Century Boulevard. Images are large C-prints and window-sized, 27 by 27 inches, mounted and laminated." Crosher told me she is someone who enjoys spending time in hotel rooms and the removal from her daily reality the experience can provide, but she also said she appreciates the fact that not everyone feels the same way about time spent in hotels. "Some people don't enjoy hotel rooms like those I photographed, and they will experience these works differently, and I like that," she said.
Her intention with these pieces was to conceptually map what she calls the “imaginary” Los Angeles, "a place that primarily exists in people’s imaginations, inspired from what they see in movies, read in books, hear from other people – it’s the false promise that L.A. is founded on."
John Divola is the second artist featured in GROUNDED, and, interestingly, his LAX NAZ photos were taken in 1975, the year Crosher was born. That year, Divola had just earned his MFA in photography from UCLA when he embarked on his LAX NAZ (noise abatement zone) project. For this undertaking, Divola explored the condemned, vacated homes within the NAZ that were eventually completely destroyed for a major LAX expansion project. His photos, of the exteriors and interiors of these homes, feature such elements as cracked glass, doors broken via forced entry (many times performed by Divola himself), and forlorn-looking abandoned living spaces.
On ESMoA's westernmost gallery wall, "before and after" photos of NAZ home destruction, in color, are presented. Curator Westerbeck spoke with me of a faux-documentary, faux-objective, faux-beaurocratic essence captured in Divola's LAX NAZ photos. GROUNDED includes 27 of Divola's gelatin-silver prints from his LAX NAZ series.
GROUNDED will be on exhibit at ESMoA through September 22. Admission is free; ESMoA's general open hours are Thursdays, 1-8pm, and Fridays and Saturdays, 10am-5pm. The general public is invited to visit the exhibit and consider our neighbor, LAX, from a new perspective.
Pictured, clockwise from top left: LAX Radisson, Zoe Crosher, 2003; LAX NAZ Forced Entry Site 26 Exterior A, John Divola, 1975; LAX Marietta's Inn, Zoe Crosher, 2003; LAX NAZ Forced Entry Site 26 Interior A, John Divola, 1975.