How many billboards?
Photo: Gerard Smulevich

Kira Lynn Harris

Kira Lynn Harris's work centers on architecture, space, light, and perception, often resulting in installations and large-scale drawings. For her billboard piece, Harris has chosen to highlight an icon of Los Angeles, the Watts Towers, built by Simon Rodia between approximately 1921 and 1954. The work is internationally known and loved as a prime work of "outsider art." A citizen's committee saved it from the wrecking ball in the late 1950s, and today is owned by the State of California and administered by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. The Watts Towers Arts Center, also overseen by the city of Los Angeles, was founded in the aftermath of the Watts Riots of 1965 in an attempt to use art to heal a battered community. More recently, the Watts House Project, initiated by artist Edgar Arceneaux and defined on the project website as a "collaborative artwork in the shape of a neighborhood redevelopment," has added new art activities to the neighborhood. Harris's billboard points to this aggregation of art-centered structures.

Her choice of subject reflects Harris's love of the towers themselves, her interest in artworks that do not easily reside in one discipline or another, and her concern with the marginalization of community-based art projects from the mainstream art world. By placing the image of the towers on a billboard, she is pointing to a landmark that is both iconic yet possibly underappreciated in Los Angeles, and certainly in great need of financial support. The words "Community as Art" in boldface suggest that community building and place-making can be viable art-making practices. The third element, ghostly variations of phrases that contain the words "community" and "art," give the sense that there are many possibilities for these ideas to come together.
By Kimberli Meyer

LOCATION: La Cienega Blvd, north of the 10 Freeway (Cadillac Ave), on the west side of the street, facing south.
METRO: La Cienega Blvd. Metro Bus 105, 705.C Venice Blvd. Metro Bus 33, 333
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Kira Lynn Harris (b. 1963)
Born in Los Angeles, Kira Lynn Harris lives and works in New York. She received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts. Often creating architectural and environmental interventions, the goal of her work is to provide a disorienting encounter for the viewer, which destabilizes and reorients the subject. Besides large-scale installations, Harris also creates conceptual photography, which investigates phenomenological discourse, space, and perception. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States and internationally, including CUE Art Foundation and P.S.1 MoMA, New York, and Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.

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