LA, Los Angeles is a city that we at #itchysilk are intrigued by. Of course, many know LA for the booming Hollywood film industry. An industry that has (and continues to) shape the global landscape in a multitude of ways. Established and aspiring actors flock to the city drawn by the allure of fame, money, and power. And while it is hard to refute the fact that LA is famous primarily because of Hollywood, it is also equally irrefutable that LA must be more than Hollywood.
It is in the LA that is ‘more than Hollywood’ where the exhibition 2 Live And Die In LA dwells. The brainchild of photographer Frankie Orozco it is an exhibition that takes us to the dark side of the moon (as it were). The side of LA that is only spoken about in whispers and furtive eye movements by those with deep pockets. After all who needs to talk about the other (less lucrative) side of the moon when you have an industry for the affluent?
Brought up in the mid 80’s he attests the LA he once knew has changed.
“This is not the city that I grew up in” he states with a force that is palpable, “People come over here and try to succeed. They treat the city like shit and then they get out”.
Anger and frustration is clear in the talented self-taught street photographer’s voice. The exhibition is “my own small way to preserve, and document those cultures at risk of a form of social extinction”.
“I started the exhibition in the August summer of 2018, but it was hard to get any support from the local galleries. In truth it put a chip on my shoulder. I reached out to LA galleries and everyone was literally like “get the fuck out of here”. They did not want to put on an exhibition about The Mongols, gang culture, Skid Row. Ultimately it was clear that the work I wanted to publicise did not fit with the image these galleries for the affluent wanted to portray.”
As an affiliate of the famed motorcycle group The Mongols, Frankie Orozco has a deeply personal response to this apparent aim to ostracise these groups.
“The Mongols have been about since the 60’s-they are part of the history and fabric of LA even if people do not want to acknowledge it. The fact is The Mongols are guys with families and jobs-they are not what you see in the movies. Initially I never knew anything about them, but it was through photography I started to understand them and the culture.”
With these “mis-conceptions” the eloquent Frankie Orozco is clear that gentrification has intensified the ‘them’ and ‘us’ gap.
While as Frankie states, “the Mongols are too strong” and “financially stable to ever be affected by gentrification” as a third generation Mexican it is the “poor cultures” of (for example) Chicano Arts that he fears for. Indeed, gentrification for Frankie has in some ways sped up the disappearance of Chicano Arts and other indigenous poor sub-cultures from the wider narrative of LA. It is clear the exhibition has become a necessity.
“With 2 Live And Die In LA I am trying to keep the history of these cultures by having established and up and coming photographers, artists document LA. The exhibition has people from Venice Beach which is one of the biggest places to be transformed by gentrification. The Dog Town Scene and the skaters of Venice Beach. I am also getting people from South Central showing the black community. It’s all about trying to preserve the cultures and stop them being erased by gentrification”.
The forth coming exhibition on the 10th of July at the Chuco’s Justice Center in South Central (once a correctional facility) will coincide with the introduction to the LA Six. They are a prolific group of street and documentary LA photographers comprised of Estevan Oriol, Merrick Morton, Frankie Orozco, Gilbert Godoy, Angela Boatwright, and Suitcase Joe (who we have interviewed before). The exhibition will undoubtedly give a rare glimpse into the LA not governed by ‘lights, camera, action’.
“I have never cared about a following or what others are doing. I just want 2 Live And Die In LA to be an authentic voice of this city.”
(For tickets click below)