Feature: SIGHT SEEING LA Susan Logoreci Draws The City by Carrie Yury
LA is decentralized, sprawling; but we can’t blame city planners of days gone by for our horizontal growth pattern. The desire to have our own little plots of sun-drenched land continues to trump the fact that vertical expansion would be a far better choice. This penchant for urban spread makes it difficult to have a cohesive viewpoint of Los Angeles, much less determine one iconic skyline. How is it possible to map such a mass?
Susan Logoreci makes intensely engaging and subjective landscape drawings of the urban disaster that is Los Angeles. A Cal State Long Beach grad, she’s a Northern California native, but a transplant to its southern region over a decade ago. Although her biography spans California’s geography, Los Angeles is at the heart of her work and figures in most of her drawings. These color field, prismatic maps have less to do with navigation, however, than they do with elegiac poetry.
Logoreci’s solo public art project “The Dream Décor of Oblivion” (2011) is up through mid-October at LAX Airport. It is fittingly in the Terminal One baggage claim area that services Southwest, the airline that frequently flies all over California and provides excellent views of our sprawl from the air. Logoreci’s LAX work echoes these aerial views, consisting of two 30-foot long by 10-foot high digital mural panels of a view of Los Angeles from the sky. Made from scans of her intimate and charming pencil drawings, “Dream Décor” evokes the kind of free, illustrated maps given out in tourist destinations that are paid for by prominently drawn local businesses. But in this case, Logoreci is the tour guide. Instead of street detail Logoreci gives us negative space, creating the impression that the city is connected by or bathing in clean, milky, negative space rather than car-clogged black asphalt.
Logoreci thinks a lot about cities. Look at her blog (http://susanlogoreci.tumblr.com/); she is interested in urbanism in general, and obsessed with Los Angeles in particular. While the mural at LAX is impressive, the nuances of Logoreci’s thinking about the city come through in her smaller works, like those exhibited in her recent solo show at Cirrus Gallery. The title of the exhibition, “It’s Hard To Know Where You Stand, When You’re Standing In It,” cannily evokes the experience of being in Los Angeles; individual perspective is the most immediate, yet most difficult way to locate oneself within the city.
The works in this show are delightful. Playful, imaginative, they take personal liberties with the landscape that allude to the dissonance between institutional, monolithic maps and individual, idiosyncratic paths through the city. Like pages out of a personal atlas of Los Angeles, the drawings show us that landscapes don’t have to be monumental, all encompassing, or navigable to be interesting. In fact, the mundane vista, or the under-looked byway might be better. Take, for example, her Los Angeles Bridges (2011). The average visitor might not even know we have bridges. But Logoreci turns them into a roller coaster ride, marrying Magic Mountain with urban overpasses. Logoreci has brought LA’s bridges together for the public, girders like pennants waving in the smog-choked breeze.
There are other instances of the celebratory in Logoreci’s work. Even the buildings in Downtown Los Angeles (In The Thick Of It) (2010) or the items on a shelf in her 99-cent store in 99 Cents Super Market Collapse (2009) are composed like a view from a mesa looking over the Grand Canyon: the urban landscape figures as sublime beauty. But it may be wrong to invoke monumental landscapes in reference to Logoreci’s work, despite the fact she has now, with the LAX commission, arrived there. Even though Logoreci works with grand vistas, the landscape is inflected with her comic, personal perspective. Blocks of color stand in for detail in many of the works, giving a sense of individual perception (foggy, general, emotive) rather than photographic detail.
Some works don’t seem to map the experience of being in Los Angeles specifically. Phantasmagorgeous (2010) is the artwork most like something you would see through a child’s kaleidoscope. Disorienting, topsy-turvy angles and triangles don’t particularly evoke Los Angeles, seeming like Bangkok or even San Francisco landscapes. Including gouache, it’s not surprisingly the most painterly of all her drawings.
Hollywoodlandgrab (2010) has a pensive quality. The abstraction in the piece relates to the uncomfortable mix of urban sprawl punctuated by local perspective that is Los Angeles. Tiny grayish apartment block windows furnish the only real detail in the piece, sprinkled through the landscape like ants. Modernist in its slightly blocky composition, negative space rips through the work; wherever streets should be there is nothing but blank white empty space. Unlike the LAX commission, the negative space in Hollywoodlandgrab reads as a kind of negation, blocking out rather than flowing under and through the city.
Riot Hyatt (2010), like Hollywoodlandgrab, plays with formal modernist tropes like color-block and line. A dark Mondrian, punctured and deflating, it brings to mind the way buildings fared in Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami, stained glass color-block windows washing away into the street. At Cirrus Gallery it was hung next to one of James Griffioen’s photographs of Detroit’s decaying urban mass, suggesting a dire warning. What exactly we are being warned against is not clear (the vulnerability of cities to economic desolation?), but the pairing brought out a somber note in Logoreci’s works. Underscored is the sense that although Logoreci celebrates Los Angeles, she is more interested in reveling in its awkwardness than glamour.
People complain about LA. It’s too big, too spread out; it takes forever to get anywhere. But not Susan Logoreci. She draws the city’s architecture in a fanciful, lyrical hodgepodge of geometry and color. Her Los Angeles is deflating, collapsing, deliquescing and falling apart. And yet the drawings do not seem to be a lament for this gritty, sunny, ridiculously laid-out city. Logoreci’s candy-colored kaleidoscope drawings are an ode to her own personal faulty and flawed but well-loved Los Angeles.