Ken Gonzales-Day’s exhibition documenting over 140 street artworks in Los Angeles is more than a history of Los Angeles Murals. By entitling the exhibition Surface Tension: Murals, Signs, and Mark-Making in LA, Gonzales-Day calls attention to the changing culture of street art and the tensions that arise between artists, communities and authorities when attempting to decorate myriad surfaces of the city.
Upon entering the exhibition space, viewers are forced to step on a floor-based map of Los Angeles dotted with numbers that pinpoint the locations of a large grid of wall mounted photographs. The map provides a way to chart the locations of the murals while simultaneously exploring the relationship between areas both densely and sparsely populated with this form of street art. A handout reproduces the map and includes captioned thumbnails of Gonzales-Day’s photographs, presenting the name of the artist and the date (when known), as well as the location of each photograph. While the majority of Gonzales-Day’s photographs are displayed as a large grid filling one gallery wall, others were selected (and printed larger) to represent some of the dominant themes— cultural identity and history, relationship to advertising and the street, celebrities, as well as the presence of signage and artworks on surfaces other than walls.
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