Ken Gonzales-Day: Surface Tension

Surface Tension is a photographic record of murals, signs, and mark-making in LA. Los Angeles-based artist Ken Gonzales-Day spent fifteen months documenting the city that many have called the “Mural Capital of the World.” “Surface Tension: Murals Signs, and Mark-Making” was an exhibition organized by the Skirball Cultural Center as a part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an initiative of the Getty Foundation. The exhibition included 143 photographs exploring LA’s streets and alleys, revealing both the joys and frustrations of the city. These murals celebrate local pride and cultural identity but also tell difficult histories of struggle and violence. The social history of muralism in LA runs deep.

Since the days of Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, murals have provided a forum for artists to express their greatest concerns. Artists today continue to use murals as sites of political provocation. They reimagine elements from pop culture, advertise for small businesses, and beautify the streets. Murals also serve as jarring backdrops to the current crisis of mass homelessness and gentrification-induced displacement. They are as complex and diverse as the city itself.

This book includes: installation views, an introduction by Laura Mart, Curator, “Surface Tension: Murals, Signs, and Mark-Making in LA,” and a new essay by the artist, and color reproductions of the works exhibited. In 2017, Gonzales-Day received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography to help support the project.


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