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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Week 7: Alex Donis' Beauty Happenings

Alex Donis' series, Beauty Happenings, placed large flowers constructed from painted road stanchions (the safety orange plastic barriers) and shredded milk cartons along freeways and the LA River, an urban guerrilla artwork installation. The appearance of the flowers, in which plastic waste ubiquitous in urban life has been reconstructed and brightly painted into an enormous flower-- meant to evoke a fantasy sense of natural beauty and wonder, stands out starkly in their gray, urban environments. I also find them oddly suiting- a reminder that all of this is constructed and meant to break, almost like a reverse memento mori of an ant crawling at the base of a still-life. The flowers all sit on concrete, either in the shoulder or gore point of a freeway or on concrete slabs jutting from the LA River, both of which act as passageways carving the city out of the earth. The flowers try to reverse this, taking what is constructed and destroyed (stanchions inevitably hit and broken or milk cartons emptied and then thrown away) and becoming a piece of natural beauty. Their size and colorfulness also remind the viewer that LA was once wild and full of uncontained nature, as opposed to the boxed spaced in which its permitted to grow now and in particular, along the edges of freeways and in certain areas of the LA River. Is the only way for us to return to the earth and therefore to beauty and wonder through more construction or through the breakdown of these constructed things?

I think that at its heart, Beauty Happenings simply seeks to be a guerilla pop-up of beauty where we least expect it, a pleasant surprise to break up the monotony of traffic. Beauty Happenings follows the same tendency of many of Donis' work to seek to transgress barriers and bring together what are typically seen as naturally opposing forces, like gangsters and police officers or pop figures and religious icons.

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