THOUGHTS N FEELINGS

Review - Do you want the cosmetic version or the real deal?

In Get Down Town Issue 3: Skid Row Art, writer Hyunjee Nicole Kim reviews the Armory Center for the Arts' retrospective of the work of the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD). Here's an excerpt in which she offers us a look inside the powerful exhibit, up through May 15, 2016:

"The exhibition opens with a timeline, which kicks off with a one-minute video of the performer LeRoy “Sunshine” Mills addressing his participation in the group as an act of therapy, declaring his lack of interest in substance abuse and his desire to be a writer. Beginning in 1891, the timeline indicates significant events that shaped the Los Angeles neighborhood of Skid Row. The handwritten labels become more numerous, the press clippings and various legal notices more densely packed, as time surges to the present. A shopping cart is positioned in the corner of the entrance, through which the timeline passes. Visitors must awkwardly skirt around the vehicle to read the fine print. It’s a brilliant curatorial move, forcing the viewer to challenge her own privilege and mimicking encounters with the homeless on the street. The timeline runs into a room showcasing early LAPD work from the 1980s and 1990s, including documented performances, scripts and ephemera. A tour of Skid Row from 1988, featuring Mills, Frank Christian and Javier Serrano, illustrates how homelessness tends to strike the institutionally oppressed of American society. Racial minorities. So-called sexual deviants. The disease-stricken and drug-addled. The formerly incarcerated. ..."Do you want the cosmetic version or the real deal?" attempts an exhaustive catalog of the LAPD’s thirty-plus years, which contributes at times to the unwieldiness characteristic of many retrospectives, but one would be hopeless to leave without understanding the organization’s self-determination and spark. Abandoned — this term is not hyperbole — the members of LAPD have interrupted a willful legacy of ignorance and produced an oeuvre that thwarts our pitiless historical trajectory."

(Photo by Jeff McLane, courtesy of the Armory Center for the Arts)

(Photo by Jeff McLane, courtesy of the Armory Center for the Arts)