Over the rest of this year, I will be posting a selection of 50 photographs of mostly single-story stucco commercial buildings along some of LA’s east-west thoroughfares: Santa Monica, Melrose, Olympic, Pico, Washington, and Adams.
Here is the next set of five photographs, ordered from north to south, in no particular east-west order. They were all taken by Darin Vieira in the summer of 2009. Eventually, these photographs will help to illustrate a book of my collected writings and projects.
Today I noticed traces of graffiti in some of the photographs, very faintly but precisely painted over in a tone of white or cream paint, either a shade lighter or a shade darker than the buildings themselves.
I like how those attempts to erase that graffiti failed miserably and actually ended up highlighting it. The byproduct of those failed erasures is a weak, flat form of ornamentation on an otherwise blank façade which to me feels like a metaphor for LA more generally.
There is a local tradition of a lot of hand-wringing and much caterwauling about how LA is a city without a history, the ultimate no-place, etc. That is the wrong way to look at how history presents itself in a city made up of so many weak forms of erasure like these examples.
It is not so much the case that LA is so very good at erasing its history. Instead, try to think of Los Angeles as a city comprised of multiple smudged, layered attempts to paint over its history. If you look hard enough, you’ll find that that history keeps bleeding through our tireless efforts to cover up the past.