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Los Angeles Center for Digital Art Presents Rex Bruce's Images of the L.A. Sky-scape

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Rex Bruce gave up his car and spent two years riding public transportation recording images of the L.A. sky-scape as a meditation on the climate crisis. The camera is always aimed towards that which daily absorbs tons of greenhouse gas: the atmosphere. Stills and video are shot through dirty windows of buses traversing Hollywood and central L.A. and composited at different frame rates, compression levels, resolutions and varied states of digital degeneration. The resultant damage is visually appealing and painterly in texture and form while generating an atmosphere of technological and urban overkill, Los Angeles style.

Video and photography from this series have been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, Laznia Center for Contemporary Art (Poland), Guggenheim Gallery (Chapman University), California Museum of Photography (U.C. Riverside), New Media Center Santa Ana, Found Gallery, Start SOMA San Francisco, Center for Political Graphics (L.A.), Niche.LA Video Art, Silver Lake Film Festival, Downtown Film Festival-Los Angeles, photoLA, photoSF, and L.A. Center for Digital Art.

Artist's Statement:

Having grown up in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley (born in Encino, raised in Tarzana), I became keenly aware of the vast amount of toxic substance being ejected into our local atmosphere as a child. When I was grade school age the pollution had reached its peak and often all of the sky was quite brown except for a small blue circle directly above. When we had a barometric inversion the pollutants became trapped in the valley and we would have a "smog alert." I stayed home from school and people were encouraged not to drive unnecessarily. Usually I would have burning eyes and a sore throat. This was a nasty, nasty environment and to this day I have sore throats, burning eyes and allergies I will likely never lose.

This blankly obvious transgression against anything remotely good, healthy or appealing in any way of course spawned a bohemian inversion: environmentalist hippie types. Whole grains and carrot juice abounded to the strains of loud druggy music. The first solar panels found their way down from powering Telstar and Sputnik to provide for "off grid" geodesic domes. I remember domes, long hair and the associated ideologies sprouting up when I was a small child. Little did I know during this time some abstruse research was in its childhood as well; people were detecting a rise in temperature in our atmosphere due to carbon emissions.

Forty years later the issues that were once the purview a radical cabal of long haired "alarmists" are now the refined science of global warming discussed at international political conferences with panicky earnestness. The resultant environmental treaties are informed by carefully construed data regarding various projections that could affect a drastically ill fated humanity if nothing is done. Ask Al Gore (you know--the one that actually was elected). Well, the margin has moved to the center and at last we have a new American president who's branding is that of Change and Hope (words that are capitalized like "Almighty" or "Lord"). This person holds promise of really actuating policy and programs to deal with the climate crises. Someone pinch me.

It would make sense in the arts community that this new social tone would be reflected in its creations (i.e. Shepard Fairy's soup can: the "Hope" poster--as opposed to his earlier more abrasive work). The "Inversion" in this series traces many aspects of my personal creative progression through these times when that pesky calamity we call the future just keeps getting more and more present. The tone of the works is playful in form, reversing the "rules" of photography and imaging reveling in their general "badness" (another inversion that can be traced to the more arty end of the spectrum). Yet, paradoxically, it does this without losing visual pleasure as a goal. They are urgent, and can be harsh, yet in fact have the ring of hope. This is almost daring after enduring decades of the baroque pessimism espoused by French academia gripping at the throat of art-dom (especially art and technology). And change is indeed "Almighty" as far as I am concerned.

As a protest for change (turned art process) I went without a car for two years and shot images and video of our injured sky through crud festooned bus windows or standing around at bus stops. I utilized fancy cell phones and obsolete digital cameras, each of which had its own characteristics in terms of the digital artifact they created. "Grunge" from the images became the raw materials I worked with. It was a formal exploration that was also expressive of the zeitgeist of my subject, the vast mechanized landscape of my city and the blue but menacing sky above it; carbon emissions are invisible.

The images were cropped at widescreen aspect ratio. The videos I created of course required this Hollywood practice (one of them is even named "Widescreen"), and the stills followed suit. Stills are printed as large as possible on canvas. Smaller sizes are printed on paper.

The money I saved being car-less was substantial. I bought a little house in the high desert where I can go breathe for a while between exhibits, hang out in the Andrea Zittel-ish Joshua Tree art scene, edit images and create prints. I also made debt for a low carb (as in carbon footprint) car. Naturally, I began to shoot through its smog encrusted windows with my iPhone while I'm stuck in traffic on the freeways. How L.A. can you get?

--Rex Bruce
January 2009

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