Lost in LA: TV Show Inspires an Art Show

An exhibition riffs on ideas related to displacement, loss, and other themes related to the popular television series

Philippe Mayaux, Night City, 2011–12, tempera on canvas.


For half a dozen years, beginning in 2004, science-fiction fans all over the globe devotedly tuned in to watch a band of air-wreck survivors struggle against supernatural forces on an uncharted Pacific island. With plot lines that ran from time travel to alternate realities, the television program Lost generated industrious amounts of Web chatter and explanatory guidebooks. Now it’s a point of departure for a display of fine art. Through January 27, the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery is playing host to “LOST (in LA),” an exhibition that rounds up works by more than 40 artists from the United States and France—among them, American conceptual artist Jim Shaw, French installationist Tatiana Trouvé, and the late Mike Kelley.

Curated by Marc-Olivier Wahler, the show is a partnership between the City of Los Angeles, the France Los Angeles Exchange (FLAX), and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Wahler says the idea came to him after talking with artists about the TV shows they watched most. “The influential show for artists during the 1990s was Twin Peaks,” he explains, referring to David Lynch’s noir-camp drama about a murder investigation. And for the new millennium, it was Lost. “What came up were these different layers of space and time and how they might connect. So, I thought, why not imagine an exhibition that examines this link?”

To be sure, the exhibition is not devoted to renderings of fuselages, the Smoke Monster, or other visual staples of the TV program. Instead, it looks into complex ideas related to displacement and loss—concepts that play well in Los Angeles.

“You can really lose people here,” says L.A. artist Marnie Weber. “Having moved from the punk music scene of the ’70s and ’80s into the world of fine art, I feel as if I’ve lost entire groups of people.” In the show, Weber has several scarecrow sculptures that pay homage to Southern California’s vanishing agricultural landscape, but which also serve as “a token of our fear.”

Other artists address similar issues. Shaw made a video that explores the idea of being literally lost in a banyan forest. Laurent Montaron is broadcasting long-dead voices into the park area surrounding the gallery, and visitors can tune into the signal on their car radios. (“A very L.A. experience,” Wahler says.) Back inside, Vincent Lamouroux’s undulating abstract sculpture descends from the ceiling. “It connects the various dots and points,” Wahler explains. Though not all of them—after all, the aim of “LOST” is to maintain an unsettling sense of mystery.

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