Matryoshka: Public Art in West LA

As the LA Times attempts a controversial mapping of LA neighborhoods, which appears to be creating more divisions in the city than anything else, a public art show in West Hollywood is embracing its heritage and (hopefully) bringing people out to the park.

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Plummer Park, which sits in a neighborhood of West Hollywood with a large Russian immigrant population, used to be the site of the oldest house in Hollywood, and is now the site of the city's first project under its new Eastside Arts Initiative public art program, Go To The Park.

The exhibit consists of five site-specific temporary installations that draw on the area's rich cultural history. Most notable is the installation done by local arts and ecology collaborative, Greenmeme, founded by Freya Bardell (a 2008 Dwell on Design panelist). Greenmeme used the iconic shape of Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls to change the physical landscape of the park. In a grassy area, they built five mounds in the shape of larger-than-life Matryoshka dolls resting on their sides, then covered them in sod to camouflage them into the landscape. The largest doll is approximately 13 feet long and about 3 feet high, creating quite a hill in the stretch of flat grass. The dolls beautifully painted faces, peering out from their coats of grass, give the effect of rising from the earth, claiming their history, as well as settling into the space and becoming part of the park community.

Plummer Park itself serves as a community hub, with basketball courts, tennis courts, lots of young families, and elderly Russians who go there to socialize. The dolls are intended to be climbed and played on by the neighborhood kids, and used by the adults as a place to rest or picnic. They invite interaction from park visitors and add a literal and artistic dimension to an otherwise ordinary urban park.  Hopefully their presence will draw even more people out into the green space of West LA. Go To The Park will be up until March 31st.

Image credit: Matryoshka, Plummer Park 2009 ©Jeffrey Garrett

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