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Art Project Fails to 'White Out' Visual Blight : Commercial Cover-Up: Nice Try, but . . .

May 23, 1985|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Times Staff Writer

Anne Bray attempted to give motorists on one of the Westside's most commercial streets a brief respite from "the visual blight" of business signs, but it didn't quite work. Her project was the victim of too few workers, too little time and uncooperative businesses.

Bray, a 35-year-old UCLA art student, planned to "white out" with butcher paper all commercial signs within a one-block radius of the corner of Lincoln Boulevard and Broadway in Santa Monica.

"I'm sorry, it doesn't work," said onlooker Linda Kaupas, squinting to distinguish between small, covered signs and the generally larger, uncovered ones.

Her companion, Elfie Wilkins, an artist and friend of Bray, agreed. "The cars are driving by too fast to get the point. Too many signs are not covered."

Worked All Night

While defending the effort, Bray accepted their verdict.

"It was not what I wanted," she said. "We could not get to the upper signs, although we had permission to cover many of them. We worked all night before we collapsed from exhaustion. I am pleased with the lower signs."

Bray and a crew of 19 volunteers worked eight hours from late Saturday night to Sunday morning trying to put paper over approximately 6,000 square feet of commercial signs approved by businessmen for the white-out project.

She had hoped to show passing motorists "the pervasiveness of visual blight and pollution."

"There is more advertising in our lives than people notice," Bray said. "You have advertising on an orange peel, the lining of our underwear, dashboards and doorknobs. I have been thinking about this project for a long time as I drove along Lincoln Boulevard."

Bray was inspired by, among others, Christo, the artist who in 1976 constructed the "Running Fence," a 24-mile-long white fabric fence through Sonoma and Marin counties. The fence was up for two weeks, then removed.

More Helpers Needed

Because of several unforeseen factors, Bray said, her project failed to match Christo's and those of other artists known for their public "works in progress."

While she thought 19 volunteers would be enough to complete the project, Bray said she could have used 50. There also was a technical problem: The signs were covered with soot, which made them resistant to the tape that was to hold the butcher paper in place. "We did not have the time to clean the signs to make the paper stick," she said.

Some businesses with the largest, most visible signs refused to participate in the project. "Obviously, they were concerned that covered signs, although we promised to remove them by noon Sunday, would result in loss of business," Bray said.

There also was a communication problem. While Bray had obtained city approval for the project, police officers on duty were unaware of it. They allowed employees of one store, also uninformed about the project, to remove the paper when they opened the store.

Bray said the project was the climax of obtaining her master's degree in fine arts at UCLA. "Usually," she said, "there is an exhibition of your work. I thought this would be more interesting."

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