Since 2002, filmmaker and photographer Larry Yust has created what he calls “photographic elevations,” long, horizontal perspectives of metropolitan streetscapes. In Street Art: Photographic Elevations of Los Angeles, Paris and Berlin by Larry Yust—on display at the Fowler from Sept. 19, 2010–Jan. 16, 2011—Yust applies his panoramic perspective to emergent, often controversial art forms that appear on the streets of Los Angeles, Paris and Berlin.
With this body of work Yust explores how red-brick warehouse facades, cinderblock walls lining thoroughfares, wooden barriers at construction sites, and fences surrounding vacant lots become prominent sites for open-air, and largely unofficial, artistic expression. The large, colorful prints—measuring from six to more than twenty feet in length—present richly detailed views of popular, and often overlapping, urban decorative styles: aerosol art (murals and graffiti), storefront signage and commercial advertising, and the creatively ordered display of merchandise and personal possessions.
Included are blocks-long images that intriguingly juxtapose the highly commercialized signage of Hollywood Boulevard with graffiti coated walls found throughout Southern California; the mural-covered remnants of the Berlin Wall with elaborately decorated exteriors of artist’s collectives in Germany’s capital; and the wildly painted delivery trucks of Paris’ Place d’Aligre market with the stunning open-air aerosol artworks presented at the city’s Musée d’Art Moderne (Palais de Tokyo).
Yust provides distinctive and telling observations of the urban landscape, but also reframes discourses about how street artists and others use the built environment as a display space or canvas, with or without permission. Do the photographic elevations fashioned by Yust depict a raw, essential artistic impulse that enhances our experience of the city? Or are we looking at visual noise and evidence of vandalism that detracts from an ideal urban aesthetic? What makes a street or a wall attractive?
Yust makes his compelling images by snapping overlapping photographs of blocks of storefronts and buildings, ensuring that the plane of the camera lens and the plane of the subject always remain parallel. He records numerous pictures for each elevation, and then digitally composes them into one long seamless image, rendering a perspective that cannot be captured by other photographic techniques or even the naked eye.
About the Artist
Larry Yust began taking photographs while scouting locations as a filmmaker, a career launched as the writer/director/producer of a series of dramatizations of classic short stories and plays for Encyclopaedia Britannica Films. He has written and directed feature films and for television, and his photographs appear in the books Salvation Mountain: The Art of Leonard Knight and METRO, a collection of his photographic elevations of Paris Metro stations. His work was the subject of the 2004 Fowler exhibition Street Seen: Photographic Elevations of Los Angeles by Larry Yust.