California Song

There is an interesting, small exhibition currently on view at the outpost that MOCA has at the Pacific Design Center. Purportedly photos by Hedi Slimane, the former designer for Karl Lagerfeld, Gucci and Dior turned photographer, the art is presented in an unexpected and personal way. Mr. Slimane, who is French but currently resides in Los Angeles, has given us a black and white portrayal of a facet of life in Southern California, clearly mediated through the European eyes of somebody who has fallen in love with our corner of the world.

Walking up the stairs of the small building, you will find yourself in a black room, with a large cube in the center, onto 3 sides of which are projected extra sized photos of Slimane. Circling the cube, you are exposed to the images that last a few seconds each, affording a much different visual experience than admiring art hanging on a wall with little notecards on the side. Banks of speakers blurt out obsessive and repetitive instrumental music to accompany the viewing.

The oversized cube

The photos are centered on a certain Californian youth: the surfing and music communities, interspersed with faces of famous, older people, objects and slivers of this city. Some of the blond, tanned surfers caught in repose or getting ready to hit the waves will remind you of Bruce Weber’s images that made Californian youth enviable and golden to the eyes of outsiders. Here, the bodies are still tanned and ripped, the hair just as blond but the lips are chapped and no smiles in sight – there is a hollowness in the details of the Point Dume tattoos or the live snake gingerly wrapped around the wrist. Even the beach, shot with the sunlight saturating the pictures, reveals buildings that look like set props, the images emptied out of the myth and the hope.

Back to the entrance, some of the stills are mounted on light wood room dividers, with mirrors in the middle so that, when standing in front of the artwork, the viewer becomes part of it. Either that was the intention or the mirrors were designed to make the small space seem roomier.


Musician, surfer or just plain Angeleno, anybody who has been residing in this city for some time will recognize the muses behind the photos. Not as sparkling or hopeful as they might have been a couple of decades ago but still, unmistakably, Californian.

California Song will be on view until Jan 22 –

For more info moca_pdc.php





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Filed under entertainment, Los Angeles

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