L.A. Habitat is a weekly series that visits with 16 artists in their workspaces around the city.
This week’s studio: Amanda Ross-Ho; Skid Row, Los Angeles.
“L.A. is one of the most fraught, anxious places that I’ve ever spent time in,” Amanda Ross-Ho told me recently. “But that motivates me.”
We were strolling through her Skid Row studio, near Sixth Street in downtown Los Angeles. Ross-Ho’s workspace is located in a large former warehouse on a relatively empty street, but the Skid Row neighborhood is home to thousands of people, many of whom are homeless or living in shelters.
“We’ve been watching that community get pushed out of this area while things are being pushed in from the east side. A lot of former industrial buildings are being turned into lofts. The stratification is a little stressful,” Ross-Ho told me. Before inhabiting her current studio, which she moved into eight years ago, she shared a space with ten other artists in East Los Angeles. Ross-Ho now splits her Skid Row studio with only one other artist—her partner, Eric Frydenborg.
Originally from Chicago, Ross-Ho moved to Los Angeles to attend USC, where she graduated with an M.F.A. in 2006. Since then, her relationship with Los Angeles has been in flux. “I hated L.A. for a long time. I couldn’t navigate; I was literally lost all the time,” she said. “It was pre-smartphone, so everything was stressful.” She noted that the city’s fraught nature is part of the reason it feels right for her, though. “There’s a sense of urgency and wanting to ask questions that are rigorous and inevitably lead you into murky territory that is not always about the pleasure of beauty. It leads you into places that are problematic and complicated, and this place is complicated. At least, it has been in the past,” she said, adding that she’s noticed L.A. residents becoming more self-aware in recent years.
Ross-Ho told me that her creative process involves navigating what it means to understand something, which requires a process of deconstruction and a careful examination of myriad complexities. To her, a studio atmosphere that feels “readily unresolved” is the perfect setting in which to make art. “There’s something actually productive about being uncomfortable,” she said. “You can’t be passive—you have to be really intentional about everything.” Ross-Ho will have solo exhibitions at the Pit II in Glendale, California, in June, De Vleeshal in Middleburg, the Netherlands, in September 2016, and Bonner Kunstverein in Bonn, Germany, next February.
Below, a look around Ross-Ho’s Skid Row studio.
ALL PHOTOS: KATHERINE MCMAHON