LOS ANGELES unscrolls like a run-on sentence — commas, semi-colons, em-dashes. But to see Los Angeles before its super-structure of elevated roads — freeways — is a different sort of sentence, unfinished, without punctuation at all. So beautiful. A new show that opens next Saturday, at the Craig Krull Gallery, features the work of photographer Richard C. Miller. These pieces are “snapshots” he made with his 35mm or 4-by-5 while tooling around town between his paying gigs.
Miller, now 98, arrived in Los Angeles early last century and copiously documented incidental details — parking lots, street corners, traffic lights, Good Humor trucks and, most dramatically, the construction of the Hollywood Freeway — the four-level and all. Miller saved everything and we benefit from the gift of it. I’m in the midst of finishing up a piece for the Times about the show. A couple of years a go I spent a good portion of the day in Calabassas with Miller and his daughter and some close artist/photographer friends. They were packing him up and moving him to the Hudson River Valley. saw stacks of prints, pillars of boxed negatives and transparencies fitted into closets and beneath beds. Everything was being cleared and and sent to a air-controlled vault — blessedly. Also, since then Miller has had some work hang at the Getty and is flying back here for the gallery opening. Imagine, coming of age when L.A. came of age. Imagine, riding back-and-forth on the freeway just for the thrill of connecting the dots faster. Miller’s work allows us to visualize those transitions, L.A.’s own there to here story. He diagrams that run-on sentence.
“I do not like bohemia, or bohemians, I do not like people whose principle aim is pleasure, and I do not like people who are earnest about anything. I don’t like people who like me because I’m a Negro; neither do I like people who find the same accident grounds for contempt. I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified or, may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done.
I want to be an honest man and good writer.”
— James Baldwin, from Notes of a Native Son
TALK ABOUT SOMETHING that begins to feel like a ritual, a season in and of itself. Last week, word got out that a nonprofit group planned to drape the Hollywood sign with a banner urging the citizens to “Save the Peak.”
The cover went up late this week in hopes of drumming up community support to purchase nearby Cahuenga Peak from private developers for $11.7 million. The sign has brought attention: both concern and confusion.
But that was the point. The group, Public Trust for Lands, says that they have raised about half of the asking price for the parcel. The land was purchased by a Chicago investment group from the estate of Howard Hughes in 2002 for close to 1.7. million.(Hughes had planned to build a love nest on the 138-acre property for actress Ginger Rogers, according to an L.A. Times report this weekend. NPR Weekend Edition Saturday ran a segment by L.A.-based journalist Karen Grigsby-Bates about the drawing power and iconic nature of the sign, our “signature” says host Scott Simon. The deadline to raise the funds is right around the corner, April 14. The Chicago-investors’ plan was to sell the land for $40 million for home sites, and that’s when L.A.’s biggest booster — the ubiquitous Hollywood-area City Councilman Tom LaBonge — stepped in to ask for the San Francisco-based land trust to help preserve the mountaintop. And I can attest, I’ve seen and spoken to LaBonge at dawn hiking those trails in Griffth Park and up around that sign when there is no camera or journalist (“on duty” that is) around. As we say in the business this story is “developing.” Stay tuned.
(photo caption: Workers hang lettered banners over the Hollywood sign that will eventually spell out “Save the Peak.” The environmental group the Trust for Public Land is sponsoring the project, which is an effort to raise money to purchase the land near the sign and keep it from being developed.
L.A. TIMES ON the project, San Patricios with The Chieftains and Ry Cooder:
“[Paddy] Moloney noted that many of the Irish soldiers were recent immigrants forced to leave their native country because of the great famine that ravaged the Emerald Isle in the mid-19th century.
“What happened was that when they get off the boat from Ireland, they were handed rifles and told ‘Off you go to shoot these Mexicans,’ ” he said. “They decided they didn’t like killing other Catholics on the orders of Protestant generals.”
Due March 9th.
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