I LOVE L.A.: Aline Smithson: LOST Los Angeles
Los Angeles or La Puebla de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles (The City of our Lady the Queen of the Angels) was founded by the Spaniards in 1781 and passed into American possession in 1846. It was however of no great importance until the ninth decade of this decade of the present century, when it under went an almost unprecedentedly rapid increase in wealth and population. Its population rose from 11, 183 in 1880 to 50,385 in 1890. – from Karl Baedeker’s Travel Guide, 1899.
Let’s face it. I love L.A. This week we are spotlighting a few Los Angeles artists who make work about Los Angeles, past and present. And I’m starting with my own book project that I created for Kris Graves Project’s LOST series. It’s a bit of a love letter to the parts of the city that continue to fascinate me.
I grew up in Los Angeles and when I left for college, didn’t move back for almost two decades. It took me awhile to re-fall in love with Los Angeles after a long stint in New York, but in some ways it was a gift to rediscover the city in a whole new way, as an adult. I grew up steps away from Hollywood Boulevard and had an early connection to a city that was the color of tarnished gold, a place where reality was a little more frayed than what you see in the movies. Before I was born, my parents bought a house in Silverlake, an area rich with architectural gems by Neutra, Lautner, Wright, and Schindler. The house sat on a hill that overlooked the original Disney studios. My mother would do the dishes watching the artists and activities from a distance. Our neighbors worked at Disney and we had unlimited free passes to Disneyland. For a child, it was heaven. The city profoundly shaped me and provided me with a deep well of visual references. Over the years I’ve come to love this city that is ever morphing and changing, as new waves of immigrants from all over the globe further enrich the culture.
The work today represents the past and present of my life, places I knew as a child and places I have come to know as an adult, with some levity added in.
Aline Smithson is a visual artist, editor, and educator based in Los Angeles, California. She is best known for her conceptual portraiture and a practice that uses humor and pathos to explore the performative potential of photography. Growing up in the shadow of Hollywood, her work is influenced by the elevated unreal. She has exhibited widely including over 40 solo shows at a variety of international institutions and her work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, and PDN.
Smithson is the Founder and Editor- in-Chief of Lenscratch, a daily journal on photography. In 2012, she received the Rising Star Award through the Griffin Museum of Photography for her contributions to the photographic community and she also received the prestigious Excellence in Teaching Award from CENTER. In 2014 and 2019, Smithson’s work was selected for the Critical Mass Top 50. In 2015, the Magenta Foundation published her first significant monograph, Self & Others: Portrait as Autobiography, and in 2016, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum commissioned Smithson to create a series of portraits for the upcoming Faces of Our Planet Exhibition. In 2018 and 2019, her work was exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of the Taylor Wessing Prize. Kris Graves Projects published her book, LOST II: Los Angeles and included her work in SOLACE and On Death. Peanut Press released her monograph, Fugue State, in Fall of 2021. In 2022, Smithson was recognized as a Hasselblad Heroine.
Follow Aline Smithson on Instagram: @alinesmithson
LOST LOS ANGELES
I’ve never gotten lost in Los Angeles, guided by the mountains to the north, the coastline to the west and the OZ-like downtown to the east, but I almost lost the city when I moved to New York and claimed I would never return. Fifteen years later, I begrudging took up residence amongst the ubiquitous blue skies and palm trees, slowly falling in love again with the mariachi low rider tattooed Kangol hat gold toothed hip-hop east side movie loving foodie hipsters west side workout women saggy pant skater riding residents with faces from every part of the globe gripping the steering wheel next to me illuminated by the cinematic eye-squinting golden klieg- like light that casts a spotlight on everything from the mundane to the sublime and makes me happy to live in this city of dreams.
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