We pass them everyday, but do billboards ever really “say” anything? They’re constantly vying for our attention, urging us to buy something. Do billboards ever make us stop in our tracks and force us to think? MAK center is changing all that with their recent exhibition, “How many Billboards? Art in Stead”. Swide explores how L.A gets an artistic makeover.
Billboards with a voice
Presented by MAK Center, “How many billboards? Art in Stead ” is a large-scale exhibition that feature 21 commissioned works by 21 leading contemporary artists on billboards throughout Los Angeles, through the end of March. In the exhibition’s opening statement, Director of MAK Center, Kimberli Meyer shares that “the philosophical proposition of the exhibition is simple: art should occupy a visible position in the cacophony of mediated images in the city, and it should do so without merely adding to the visual noise. How Many Billboards? Art In Stead proposes that art periodically displace advertisement in the urban environment”.
Photo by MAK Center
Los Angeles is a city full of art and culture, yet it can be hard to find beneath the overbearing images of consumerism. One would find artist, Susan Silton’s billboard art as a breath of fresh air. Candy-coloured stripes and the phrase, “if I say so” embedded within, Silton’s billboard draws the viewer’s attention in terms of its visuals and message. Her text, “if I say so” highlights the authoritative power of a billboard that we sometimes underestimate. Silton explains that the phrase is an excerpt from a 1961 telegram sent by artist Robert Rauschenberg. Gallerist, Iris Clert invited Raushenberg as well as other artists to take part in an exhibition where they were to contribute a portrait of her. As opposed to submitting a standard portrait as asked, Rauschenberg instead sent over a telegraph that read, “this is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so”.
Photo by Robert Wedemeyer
Silton use of stripes wasn’t purely an aesthetic choice, but rather a reference to society. She cites Michel Pastoureau’s book “The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes,” in sharing that “stripes were worn by the reprobates of society, stripes were marker for transgression”. In turn, Silton’s stripes deliver a socially and politically charged message. The use of stripes is part of Silton’s signature style as she once covered the exterior of Pasadena Museum of California Art entirely in stripes as part of an exhibition.
Photo by Gerard Smulevich
The question remains, why use billboards rather than the standard canvas? In discussing the “How many billboards? Art in Stead” exhibition with MAK Center, Silton shares in an interview that, “the audience is becoming key of funding of institutions…it’s becoming key in terms of practice, incorporating as many people into a work, drawing as many people, and hopefully moving as many and hopefully moving as many people”. We’re certain that Silton and the 21 other artists involved in the MAK exhibition, are succeeding in moving people, as well as provoking deep thoughts.
Check out Susan Silton’s video interview with MAK Center here.
The “How many Billboards” exhibition runs until March 30th, 2010. For more information on the artists and billboards, visit the MAK Center website.
Sources: MAK Center
Photo credit: Gerard Smulevich & Robert Wedemeyer
Tagged with: #EXHIBITION
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