Frank LA is starting a conversation around some of the city’s biggest issues. First topic of discussion: homelessness.
Portrait of Meggen, Josiah and Adrian (currently living on skid row) by Tomo Fotos.
Ordinarily, an art publication isn’t a work of art in and of itself. But put enough creative minds on it, and suddenly an abstract notion becomes a gallery-worthy achievement.
Case in point: Frank LA. It’s a multi-format art subscription service from the local arts organization Frank Cities that gathers artists in and around Los Angeles, gives them a concept, instructs them to open their idea faucets for maximum flow, and then gleefully gathers the results and provides them to subscribers three times a year—beginning with the inaugural December 2014 edition— in both print and object-based forms, for an annual fee of $975. The subscriber base will be limited to 2,000.
Led by founders Alison Miller (also the publisher of Los Angeles Confidential), Patrick Gill, and Cindy Troesh—as well as curators Lauri Firstenberg (LAXART), Shamim Momin (Los Angeles Nomadic Division), Mat Gleason (Coagula Curatorial), and writer Carol Cheh—Frank LA was conceived not only to provide high-end manna to famished art devotees, but also to illuminate issues in and around Los Angeles. In that effort, it selected the shopping cart—perhaps the most notable symbol of homelessness—as the focus of its first issue.
Bag Lady by Bode Helm.
The artists involved are an all-star team of area talent: Abel Alejandre, Edgar Arceneaux, Mattia Biagi, Ruben Esparza, Michelle Carla Handel, Dwyer Kilcollin, Mimi Lauter, Lipschutz & Lipschutz, Danial Nord, Ry Rocklen, Anna Sew Hoy, Cole Sternberg, and Jay Stuckey. They were asked to present their takes on the shopping cart; the issue will contain 36 total art prints—12 of them involving shopping carts—contained in a linen box. The larger artworks will eventually be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the LAMP Community, a nonprofit that helps the most vulnerable residents of skid row—mostly adults with mental illness—with services and housing.
It’s a beacon among such organizations: the LAMP Community boasts one of the highest success rates in the country, as more than 95 percent of the people it houses stay housed for one year or more. “This platform brought to mind specific artists who live and work in the heart of the homeless community,” explains Firstenberg.
It didn’t take long for Frank LA participant and artist-designer Edgar Arceneaux to see the possibilities as a work of sculpture. “I noticed it was smaller than the average cart,” he says. “I started to look at it like a wheelchair for a child, which added another layer of commentary around homelessness.”
Painter-sculptors Jeff Lipschutz and his son, Mike, scanned the Internet for cart ideas. “We deconstructed what a shopping cart is,” Mike explains. “It’s isolated from its true [purpose], which is something to put food in. But people can get arrested and fined for having a shopping cart when all they want to do is keep their lives together.”
Ultimately, Frank LA intends for each issue to create provocative images and forms that raise awareness of a societal issue while causing subscribers to view topics in a new way—like they will when they see San Pedro-based inter-disciplinary artist Danial Nord’s shopping cart interpretation, which involves LED lights and sound. He turned his shopping cart into a screaming police car. “When I took it out for a test roll, within minutes some cops stopped me,” Nord says.