Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


Self Help, A First Look East of LA River

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

A week before Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead celebration, I found myself with an excuse to stop by the east side of the Los Angeles River. I had never been there before, I've always braked at Arts District or Little Tokyo.

Right off the Gold Line station was Self-Help Graphics, the venerable art institution that incubated much of the Chicano Arts Movement. I admit, 80 percent of the reason for my being there was because of this community arts center. I was curious to see what kind of place could foster such life.

Colorful Self-Help facade. The neighborhood might be intimidating, but at least this isn't.
After a bit of trepidation upon entering the door, I found out. I wasn't shooed away after poking my head in. Instead, I was nonchalantly showed the main gallery. I apparently found my way to the back office.

I wandered around as skulls and skeletons greeted me. Since I had never really known a Dia De Los Muertos celebration, much of its symbolism escaped me, but I loved the color and vibrancy in each of the works.

A pile of skulls.
I suppose he has a good view.
This is a very large Mother Mary. Now this symbol I can understand.
My favorite print of the gallery.
It was quiet in the gallery, which I'm sure it isn't on regular community events, but it was nice to see this place finally.

As I wandered outside, I walked through rows and rows of industrial buildings, wondering who were its tenants. The place was like a shabbier version of the Arts District, both raw, edgy, but the other one just a smidge of hip (or is it gentrification?).

Corner lot right under the bridge.
Bridges flew over the streets and underneath them was a parking lot for cars. Trucks, old cars sped past me as I walked, but even here in this real gritty part of town, there's a bit of tongue-in-cheek art plastered on the walls. I suppose you can't get a good artist down, wherever they may be.

Now go call mom :)


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