the irony and the ecstasy

by urquiza!
Posts Tagged ‘editorial’

gentrification avenue

images are from approximately four months, starting in the spring of 2015 as highland park sleeps through the impending upheaval. its business as usual. analysing the situation in retrospect, it appears the collective consciousness of a group of land owners can see the changes and are starting to visualise the profit potentials in their minds. by early the following year many properties are up for sale. and, by the end of 2015 the landscape will be extraordinarily different.

we start on york boulevard across the street from cafe de leche where the first visible sign of gentrification arrived around 2009. its opening is a major event and can be qualified as revitalisation for sometime. it is the first new retail to open with a complete makeover, cafe de leche’s owners envisioned it as a multi-cultural and multi-racial hub. the aesthetic was decidedly contemporary and had more in common with an industrial upscale swork in eagle rock than a cafe antigua on figueroa. today it is fairly multi-cultural in some respects showing art from avenue 50 studio’s chicano artists, while the racial diversity of its customers is limited to their economic diversity, that is wealthy white and assimilated people of colour.

other businesses such as the restaurant “the wild hare” that displaced the chinese karaoke bar and restaurant may have opened and closed its doors before cafe de leche opened or, clare graham and the mor/york gallery that has been there since the 90s. neither operated traditional hours, so their presence went largely unnoticed. however, in around 2006, mor/york painted their name on the building exterior in a modern sans serif typeface and it was quickly tagged the next day. that low level resistance did not last long when johnny’s bar and the investor driven york opened up. the artist brian malman also contributed fuel to the change by staking claim for the art and creative class by appropriating the empty gas station lot signage. malman, an eagle rock resident replaced the old mobile station’s with his art statement, “form, line, here, art gallery,” in what appeared to be a support of the kristi engle gallery that relocated from downtown. in a coffee driven exercise i performed traffic counts from the corner of cafe de leche. in 2009 it was fair to say you could see an obvious 15-20 people of colour per hour coming and going from the bus stops to retail and the residential. today in 2016 it has become a destination street for consumers from around the city. its traffic is easily 50-60 people per hour mostly from their own vehicles or walking from residential.

figueroa street runs north and south. it is seemingly similar to an outsider’s eye. however, it has a stronger economic base that many of the businesses on york. the architectural scale is grander, the boulevard wider, lot sizes have more square footage and has institutional businesses. york developed as a tributary of figueroa. at one time figueroa had a rail line shuffling materials from eagle rock to los angeles. it is the elder of the two streets with the first church being built here in 1900 and with several other destinations such as the highland theatre, the ebell club, the mason’s lodge and many more local restaurants. york’s historic destination hubs share a similarity with the current spaces. mor/york gallery was formerly an open air style safeway store, while café de leche was a mid-century diner.

the greyhound becomes the epicenter of the figueroa gentrification wave. it displaces a sleepy, but cavernous pupuseria that served 99 cent pupusas and aguas frescas. a self-employed gardener could feed his family for twenty to thirty dollars. in contrast the new greyhound serves $11 draft beers and primarily serves a local and exclusive audience of assimilated latinos and wealthy whites from the hills. its presence was preceded by future studio by many years. however, the home of chicken boy as it is also known had deep community roots and accessible art despite being associated with the creative class that dominated york boulevard. the fitness gym pop physique opens shortly after the greyhound and foreshadows the future of figueroa with a clash of aesthetics and lifestyles.

because the previously mentioned scale and proliferation of figueroa’s “latino urbanism” it has not folded as quickly. highland park developed as a sub-economy of the surrounding wealthy enclaves of pasadena and glendale providing them with a domestic labour force. the gardeners and street vendors are highly visible on the streets and at the panederias and mercados of highland park, but we speculate they are undercounted in statistical data because of their cash economy. the population imported their native value system which is what we are now calling “latino urbanism” as a means to meet its own community needs. food service and entertainment make up 10%, manufacturing another 10%, but the largest workforce in highland park is clearly the health, education and social workers at twenty one percent. all these working class segments are being destabilised by the shifting wealth in the economy. unfortunately, unless they are land owners, they will be locked out of any benefits that will result from this economic shift. the same scenario awaits the core businesses of inexpensive restaurants, clothing stores, pharmacies, hair salons and dollar stores that anchor the vibrant street life. they will come under threat in the following year when values increase even further.

(see image captions for more info)

: :   : :   : :

sweet arroyo nights

editorial assignment, dreaming accessories in los angeles for visionarios magazine, milan.

spring in LA is always complicated. history and the night collide with LA chic. in this accessory story the colour block trend is still going strong, but its LA! and, vintage, earthy and western styles always lurk in the shadows. southern california is not all freeways and shopping malls. LA is dotted with old neighbourhoods filled with craftsman to art deco architecture as well as the many revival styles of the early 20th century. so many textures this spring, copper mixing with brilliant stones and juicy colours. its gritty in the city, its night in the city, but its always beautiful in LA.

elisabeth joy murray fashion/accessory stylist

kelly casper lombardo assistant stylist:

carlos anthony olivas assistant photographer / model

(click on image for fashion information)

















: :    : :    : :

after the grand canyon

part two in the continuing series in the study of my nephew arturo. these are photographed almost to the day a year later from the first sitting. yeah, homie is still wearing the same hat and a similar sweatshirt… in this trip he leads his wife and two kids, as well as his mom who wanted to join us through the experiences he shared with my mother.

see part one in the series “mr churro” (here).


















: :   : :

the woman in blue

dominique moody is the artist in residence at the watts towers. as part of her residency she is allowed the use of a privately owned small cottage to work and live in across the street from the towers known as the R cloud. the property during simon rodia’s time was a long skinny clapboard cottage right off the train tracks in an industrial section of los angeles. today it is stuccoed over, painted minty fresh and dominique maintains a garden with melons and vegetables behind the chain link fence. there are still roosters cackling on the other side of the of the paint and graffiti covered corrugated metal fence.

her art is colourful and drenched in symbols of her large family. she creates with ceramics, metal, tree branches and shoes or whatever she can find. by her own words she is a nomad since childhood. her father would restore dilapidated mansions in hopes of building enough sweat equity and eventually ownership only to lose the homes unfairly and move to yet another one with the same hope. the sixth photograph in this series is a to scale mock up of her nomad proposal that she hopes to travel the country in. what struck me the most was not her pieces that explored her family’s past, but the last photograph in this set of a mixed media piece about her musician ex-husband who suffers from schizophrenia and who had to be institutionalised. she displays it just before you enter her kitchen in the narrow cottage. the assemblage artist is legally blind and her eye sight is limited to seeing shapes and forms as evident in much of her artwork.

















: :   : :

going downtown

more out takes from the my sixth street assignment for the california apparel news. i think these brought me back to the beginning of my wandering downtown as a kid. i think it was the wheels, the walking and so many windows. back then it was big cars that would glide through the street, they have been replaced by scooters and bikes.


rocco espinoza owner of round2 one of the new hipster stores on sixth street. i went to high school with his sister, that was a strange revelation. it was the first person in thirty years that i have come across from that era. rocco is the window.


stanton james is a high end boutique on the ground floor of the old chubb insurance building. the windows are nothing like the old windows of the downtown department stores of the 60s. big stories and big visuals dancing behind glass. men in crisply steamed suits and women in skirts and camel hair coats bustling about.


the next time i see this guy i have to meet him. otherwise, the fantasy in my head of him as a skid row lawyer will become reality and will never be able to erase that memory.


the last frame of the assignment. on the bus, riding back to the newspaper.


: :   : :

sadie and the blue devils

sweet sadie (sara coultas) and her new band the blue-eyed devils take old-timey songs and start swinging at mr T’s bowl, may 21, 2011. really low light levels and a white dress make for big chunky grain.













: :   : :

mr. churro

mr. churro is a work in progress. it is an exploration into my nephew arturo urquiza’s world. in this set arturo returns to his childhood memories by visiting olvera street. he came here often with his grandmother who passed away of cancer more than twenty years ago. i remember him as  a goofy teenage boy with an overbite and a choppy haircut. he is now a man complete with tattoos and his own children.




























: :   : :