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'Sunbather' artists want a part of other parcels

Calder Greenwood, a New York native, says he and his partner in the life-size installation in an empty downtown lot were pleased with the public's reactions.

May 27, 2012|By Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times
  • Calder Greenwood and an anonymous partner installed these life-size "sunbathers" in the empty lot on Broadway between 1st and 2nd streets in downtown L.A. Greenwood said they liked the public's reactions and may even have plans for other abandoned parcels around town.
Calder Greenwood and an anonymous partner installed these life-size "sunbathers"… (Arkasha Stevenson, Los…)

The artists who installed the life-size "sunbathers" in an empty lot in downtown Los Angeles said they were pleased with the public's reactions — and may even have plans for other abandoned parcels around town.

"We're getting people to see things," said Calder Greenwood, 32, a New York native working in Los Angeles as a multimedia artist. "It takes what's otherwise invisible, and it gets people to notice. It pointed out the fact that the lot was big and empty."

His partner in the installation, who asked to remain anonymous, has lived in L.A. for two decades and has been doing similar street art since 2000.

"For years, I've been scouting this site," he said, looking into the sandy lot on Broadway between 1st and 2nd streets downtown. "I originally wanted to put in a submarine, back when the lot was filled with water."

The downtown site has been abandoned since 2007, when the seismically unfit Junipero Serra State Office Building was demolished. A long-stalled federal courthouse is planned for the dirt plot, and construction is likely to start later this year.

Greenwood had been walking downhill from the Walt Disney Concert Hall earlier this year, and "this image of sunbathers just popped in my head," he said, pointing to the street where many passersby were startled by the realistic art installation of a family sunbathing as if at a beach.

The guerrilla art project took less than five minutes to set up Monday evening. The best part about cardboard and papier-mache is that it's cheap and easy to toss over the fence, they said. They didn't check the weather, but they mapped out a plan — also on cardboard — and weren't fazed when they discovered there was no longer water in the pit for their sunbathers. Even better, they thought.

Many people headed to the nearby courthouse or Metro station stopped to snap pictures at the installation, until it was removed Wednesday.

At first glance, passersby thought they were real: a boy playing in the sand, a woman sunbathing on a brightly colored beach towel, a man under an umbrella. People rushing along 1st Street stopped their cellphone conversations to peer through the fence. Others did double takes as they continued walking, removing their sunglasses for a better look.

"At first, I thought they were real and thought: Who would actually do that? I had to take a closer look," said Natalie Espinoza, 20, who stopped for a few minutes to try to get a good picture with her cellphone. "Now I'm thinking: Who would go to all that trouble to put in that art? It's funny."

"I wish I had my camera," Kim Whitlowe, 48, said to her friend. "I was thinking: Who'd want to sit in a fenced-in area, on rocks. There's no shade, no water — and they even brought a child! To each his own, but I'm glad it's not real."

It's not clear what happened to the sunbathers.

"Unfortunately, they were removed by someone else," Greenwood said. "Who knows where they are now, most likely at the bottom of a dumpster. But I'm glad people saw them while they were up."

Greenwood's partner didn't want to give his name because he's got his eye on other spots that are similarly "loosely abandoned."

But "I'm out," said Greenwood, chuckling. He had posted photos on his Facebook page earlier this week and wrote "haha made the news!" with a link to the post The Times published Wednesday.

The pair met two months ago through a mutual friend. Within a few minutes, they had committed to the same vision.

It was the first time Greenwood had created something like this. "I didn't expect people to notice it a lot," he said, so the best part of the experience for him was watching the reaction.

"It's fun seeing this story unfold," Greenwood said. "Hopefully, we can keep it going."

rosanna.xia@latimes.com

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