Larry Johnson hails from the Southern California town of Lakewood, and for the past forty years he has employed strategies of appropriation to channel and extract tensions at the core of American culture. Mining a slew of popular source material, Johnson draws on vocabularies of animation, commercial design, and advertising in a manner that subverts the feel-good rhetoric of consumerism. Image and text share space in his work in cryptically critical ways, as shorthand phrases, logos, and slogans celebrate the veneer and vices of Hollywood and, more broadly, Los Angeles. A rogues’ gallery of archetypes and recognizable figures—hustlers, Walt Disney, John F. Kennedy—creep into Johnson’s tableaux, which are in step with his classless, Marxist sensibilities, rendering questions of high and low moot.
For Made in L.A. 2020, Johnson has created a set of five billboards carefully staged in the neighborhood of MacArthur Park. Their content features site-specific texts and visuals. Poetic interventions into space and local geography, the billboards quote their cultural and quotidian environment.
Larry Johnson’s Billboard Locations:
Notary, 2020, S. Rampart Blvd. and W. Seventh St., Los Angeles 90057 (facing north)
Q&A, 2020, W. Seventh St. and S. Rampart Blvd., Los Angeles 90057 (facing south)
Bristol, 2020, Hoover St. and W. Seventh St., Los Angeles 90005 (facing east)
Palmistry, 2020, W. Eighth St. and S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles 90057 (facing north)
Palmistry 2, 2020, W. Eighth St. and S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles 90057 (facing north)
Larry Johnson’s billboards are coproduced by The Billboard Creative for Made in L.A. 2020.