LAXART Presents a New Billboard Project by Kelly Poe
Artist Kelly Poe collaborated with L.A.P.D.—Los Angeles Public Domain—to create a site-specific billboard along La Cienega Blvd.
The billboard presents the image of a smoky sky, filled with flames, which speaks to the artist’s work in For the Wild, her concurrent exhibition at LA><ART. Known as an environmentalist and a photographer, Poe began corresponding in 2006 with seven activists who were labeled by the United States government as domestic terrorists for their work in support of animals and the environment and incarcerated.
After corresponding with these activists, Poe asked each of them to describe the locations that keep them sound despite a life in prison, traveling to the Arizona desert, the South Dakota Badlands, the Pacific Northwest, and even the Atlantic Ocean to capture the scenic beauty of each of these special places. Poe was conscientious to photograph the locations at the time of day each activist sees in their mind’s eye, capturing a reality they can only enjoy through memory.
Poe, aware of the longstanding tradition of landscape photography, in addition to its inherently political undertone, attempts to breathe new life (and political significance) into a potentially stale genre. Poe’s billboard of smoke and fire, perched above LA><ART, is in reference to the book The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey: “The protagonists attempt to take back the beauty of the natural landscape by destroying billboards, dams, et cetera,” says Poe of the novel’s storyline. She continues to explain that the book was significant in “motivat[ing] frustrated, above-ground activists into establishing Earth First, the first radical, direct-action environmental movement.”
With this in mind, Poe set her own billboard “on fire,” although the flames perhaps also speak to the threat of destruction of the immaculate natural spaces captured in the images exhibited below within the gallery’s walls.
L.A.P.D. is a organization that encompasses the public art initiatives of LA><ART with support from ForYourArt.
by Alexis M. Johnson