When Ed Ruscha was taking photos of gas stations and parking lots in the 1960s, California car culture was considered emblematic of American individualism. “Now when you go to a parking space in L.A., you can put your credit card in, so it already puts you into a grid,” says artist Warren Neidich. “You can actually go online and see where parking spaces are available. It’s part of the information grid. The parking space has changed.”
But Los Angeles parking spots have been seeing a lot more revelry of late, thanks to a yearlong project put together by Neidich and Elena Bajo. “Art in the Parking Space,” presented by LA><ART, features temporary works by more than 40 international artists, all bound together by the relentless grid of the city’s white and yellow stripes.
Last July, Gracie Devito climbed atop her black Toyota Highlander in Chinatown and played a harmonium to set the mood for a series of performances by other artists. “I got to thinking of my car as a music box—doors popping open, windshield wipers moving—and developing acts around that,” she says.
On January 24, Devito will park her Highlander in the Standard Hotel’s parking garage in West Hollywood and again lead a group of performers, this time with a focus on cars as holders of memory. “The car has all these indexes on it from the past,” she says. Streaks of color still stain her SUV from painted balloons that burst during the first performance. The Standard Hotel event, which will bring pieces by several artists to the garage, is part of the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival.
Other “Art in the Parking Space” works have included choreographer Anita Pace leading onlookers in an asphalt dance party in Dance Here, Here Dance; Belgian artist Pierre Bismuth blasting news announcements of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory from a parked rental car, in Flashback, which evoked the fleeting optimism that swept the nation on that day; and David Medalla and Jevijoe Vitug giving away what were purported to be celebrity underpants, such as Paul Newman’s, in Roulette Wheel in Homage to Marcel Duchamp. The series continues through June, with artworks occurring sporadically.
“All the interventions in the project embrace the idea of ephemerality,” says Bajo. “Any of us who drives a car knows that when you park your car you are occupying the space for only a short time.”