Coming soon to a billboard near you: thematic art by renowned contemporary artist John Baldessari. Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that produces contemporary public art projects, has initiated an exhibition of artist-made billboards titled “The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project” that is travelling along I-10 from Florida to California.
The project launched in Jacksonville, Florida, in Fall 2013, and will be on the move through Spring 2015, concluding in Los Angeles. Ten artists were chosen to participate in the project, each presenting 10 billboards in one of the 10 cities chosen along the route. San Antonio is the fifth “chapter” of the project and will feature 10 billboards by artist John Baldessari to perhaps liven up your usual commute. The billboards include social media links for dialogue and interaction with the community.
Baldessari is a California-based conceptual artist who experiments with a variety of media and is known for using found photography and imagery in sometimes humorous and playful ways. He often uses solid shapes of bright colors to obscure parts of images, appearing like a collage.
Baldessari’s chapter of the project is titled “Love and Work.” He created one image that is repeated on all 10 billboards scattered around San Antonio, employing the marketing tactic of repetition to attract commuters’ attention. The locations of the billboards may seem random, but they are placed intentionally to draw connections between each site. The image on the billboards is two parts, representing the ultimate dichotomy of Manifest Destiny and the American Dream – hence the title, “Love and Work.”
A black and white photo of a man relaxing in a hammock is next to an image of a large gear, contrasting the leisure and industrialism that are essential to the American Dream, causing both motivation and frustration. The figure in the hammock is defined with layered blocks of bright yellow and purple in Baldesarri’s iconic style, creating a playful image of happiness.
Two of the artists in “The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project,” including Baldessari, are former Artpace San Antonio artists. Baldessari had his work included in the Summer 2010 Hudson (Show)Room exhibition “On the Road,” which happened to explore similar themes of American highways.
Another artist in billboard project, Mario Ybarra Jr., was a Fall 2009 Artpace International Artist-in-Residence. Ybarra shot all of the images for his chapter of project titled “Barrio Aesthetics” on his cellphone.
“You do not need expensive equipment to make art — you can kick it with your prepaid Cricket,” he said.
Ybarra said his billboards were unique to him because they were all shot on my cell phone on my morning walks around my barrio.”
“The response from the local community was great as the Latino community is growing there,” Ybarra said in Mobile, “but the images I made were of iconic moments in American life.”
The San Antonio chapter launched last Friday at the McNay Art Museum with a conversation with René Paul Barilleaux, Curator at the McNay, Shamim M. Momin, LAND’s Director and Curator, and Los Angeles-based artist Zoe Crosher, who conceived of and is co-curating “The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project.“
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*Featured/top image: John Baldessari’s “Manifest Destiny Billboard Project” will feature 10 billboards in San Antonio. Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Nomadic Division.