On the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles, bright, colorful and socio-political murals have transformed an industrial neighborhood into something of a go-to street-art destination. Daniel Lahoda, a curator and art dealer, started the initiative, called LA Freewalls, in 2009 to bring murals back to Los Angeles. Through LA Freewalls, Lahoda has supported the creation of dozens of murals. His plan was designed to circumvent the ban on public mural instituted by the city in 2002.
“L.A. had been a mural capitol," he said recently at the opening of his new gallery, LALA Gallery, also in the downtown area. "The artists were marginalized by the ban."
Many of the artists who created the LA Freewall murals -- some have come from as far away as Europe and New Zealand -- are now featured in the LALA Gallery's inaugural exhibition, “LA Freewalls Inside," which opened last Saturday.
The gallery space is the natural progression from public space to commercial gallery for Lahoda, who has worked with Shepard Fairey, Swoon, How and Nosm and Daze; those artists have pieces in the show. The raw second-floor gallery was once a boxing gym and appears as an interior extension of the work Lahoda is doing in the streets. “We can be loud and industrial here,” he said.
The indoor space spills out onto a roof deck, where several of the artists, among them Lady Aiko, have created new murals for the exhibition.For the opening party, a bar and a DJ had set up shop on the roof. Askew One, a New Zealand-based artist, was recognized at the opening for his marriage of two sister cities — Los Angeles and Auckland.
Most of the mixed-media pieces, paintings and sculptures that Lahoda selected for the gallery show are a direct response to the murals made by the artists, such as the elliptical letters in a work by the graffiti writer Risk.
Dale Marshall’s large-scale painting has the composition reminiscent of abstract expressionist work. The twins and co-collaborators How and Nosm have several large canvases on display defined by precision and form using only a red, black and white palette. They’ve also contributed a provocative sculpture of a giant hand.
Push has several small canvases on display, which appeared to be full-color studies for his large-scale geometric compositions. The Perv Brothers transformed an old piano into “The Female Organ,” an erotic work depicting women’s sexual parts. Becca showed two whimsical figurative paintings that capture young ballerinas.
Lahoda says he plans to have about four or five exhibitions a year at LALA Gallery. He will also a host a number of community events at the space in a continued effort to bring the outside in.