French artist Vincent Lamouroux has pulled a disappearing trick with a blighted Silver Lake motel, replacing it with an open canvas for California dreaming.
Lamouroux's new art installment is a whitewashing of the dilapidated Sunset Pacific Motel on Sunset Boulevard he calls Projection that's attracted the area's attention in creating a hulking mass of negative space open for individual interpretation.
The three-story building is covered fully in lime-wash, including the rooftop, adjoining billboard, and palm trees. The public is only allowed to witness its divinity as a sidewalk spectator, but on a recent visit to the site I was given a tour of the structure with Lamouroux and his collaborator Nicolas Libert, founder of the Downtown LA art store Please Do Not Enter.
Just stepping up to the transformed “Bates Motel” (as it’s known around the area) conjures a wide-eyed awe of divinity through art. The concept behind Projection is fairly simple, but the impact is a tremendous breath of levity amidst the city's more dominating qualities. It's an immediate relief from the dull grey concrete and its abrasive reflecting of the hot sun, not to mention the dense bombardment of messaging and stimulation. In this sense, it makes sense that Projection is being referred to as a time and site-specific "intervention."
Speaking in a thick accent, Lamouroux said the idea was conceived over the past decade, passing by the derelict property about yearly and feeling inspired to do something with it.
"I started to think about finding a way to encapsulate or to envision the whole site, meaning not only this architecture, but more the lot of the site itself." he said. "So to me it means the billboard, the palm trees, and all elements that you can find on this lot. Instead of putting a sculpture in the middle of the courtyard, the idea was really to play with the whole site."
Though the public is not actually allowed onto the motel property, its attraction is undeniable. Standing on the rooftop, I had an overhead view to people flocking to the site, walking up from all directions to check it out and snapping a photo before heading on their way. Even from inside a passing car, there's a magnetism to its white, void-like presence, sitting there kind of like a dream that takes you out of the major throughways typical busyness."
"[Vincent] was practicing a different take on LA reality here," said Nicolas Libert, whose own accent is lighter than Lamouroux's but still gives away his French nationality. "This couldn't exist in Paris because you have this special location and all the ingredients of Los Angeles in one single spot: You have the billboard, the palm trees, the architecture and you even have the address on Sunset Boulevard, which is the most iconic address you may find in the world. You have really much more than you could expect or hope in one single space, so dealing with that was really amazing."
But what makes the piece most interesting is not that Lamouroux has tied these essential Los Angeles tokens into any succinct message. Rather, it is his lack of a voice here that is its defining quality. When asked whether there will be something projected onto Projection, the answer is that it's all in your mind.
"I think we live in a time of cognitive and affective saturation, and having this building in white like this it's just sort of a rest, a breeze, something very quiet and then it gets some attention," Lamouroux said. "It's both appearance and disappearance at the same time."
Libert added, "You could think of so many things seeing this installation but something that is really striking is that without knowing the work, without even knowing the installation, when you drive by on Sunset, everything was designed to catch your eye, everything was done with a commercial purpose — you have the billboards, you have the neon sign, you have the architecture, you have the huge signs everywhere — and in fact you don't see anything else. Because now you're fed up of all these things, all these communications that's here.
“Trying to erase the building as Vincent did, trying to put it white, just to almost try to forget it. You make it so obvious, you make it so evident, and that's the only thing that you see when you drive on sunset and you see all the people here driving they are just slowing down and they keep asking, 'What's that?' And they want to park, and they want to take pictures, and they want to bring some friends. So that's — without a single word, without a single text, without any explanation — a huge impact.'"
Lamouroux and Libert's ideal response to Projection is that their audience interpret the project with a "perfect" something in mind. That could mean anything, really, so long as it creates an interaction between the presentation and whatever values people bring along with them. It is the structure of iconic California, as Libert alluded to earlier, but totally open to become one's own version of whatever that means. This is a concept that resonated on a personal level. As transplants to Los Angeles, we at Hit City often feel we're interpreting a vaguely fictional lore that is Southern Californian culture.
"It's exactly like living a dream," Libert said. "It's just like a white screen and you can use it to just project anything you have in mind: your dreams, your nostalgia... If you're nostalgic of what Los Angeles used to be, or even your expectations of what it should be — all kind of things — you project that on the wall, on the building, on the landscape, on the billboard. But you're not able to get in; you're not supposed to go in the building, so imagination also has to work on it....
"It means that people have to work on their side. Vincent has done a huge job but they also have to do a part of the job. They also have to use it, have to dream about it, have to remember it, which makes a kind of dialog."