For the inaugural cohort of the Creators in Residence, we have engaged two uniquely creative and thoughtful individuals: Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin and River Garza.
Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin is a photographer known primarily for his photo essays of urban environments and the changing landscapes of the places that hold meaning for him and his community. In the last few years, he was honored as one of Time Magazine's top 12 African American photographers to follow, and by the New York Times as one of their lists of the top 5 essential artists to follow, where they described his photography as a kind of archaeology. Some recent projects document Black Space in LA, the changes in his home neighborhood of Hollywood, and the effects of the pandemic on Los Angeles' landscape.
For Kwasi's residency, he embarked on an ambitious and multi-faceted journey that took him to all 73 branch libraries across the city. His project resulted in a wide-ranging exploration of the physical spaces as well as community-facing programs and interactions that make each library unique. He has created a suite of highly perceptive photographs highlighting Central Library and one branch from each of the library's six regional areas that have personal significance to him. These sets of photographs also document details and moments from the immediate surrounding community each library serves. Kwasi created a small art book/zine featuring an illustrated photo of each of the 73 branch libraries, a limited-edition poster with a stylized illustration of architectural elements from each library, and another series of analog photographs of former branch library buildings that have been repurposed or abandoned. He also authored a more substantial book titled Knowledge Based, with photos and further written reflections on the seven libraries he explored in the greatest depth.
River Tikwi Garza is an interdisciplinary visual artist of Native American (Tongva) and Mexican descent. He is a member of the Ti'at Society—a group dedicated to traditional Indigenous maritime culture. His work draws inspiration from this cultural background as well as graffiti, Mexican and low-rider culture. Through painting, muralism, and mixed-media works, his artwork often deals with issues around identity, memory, tradition, and a quest for what he describes as visual sovereignty (in response to his tribe's lack of federal recognition). His work has recently been shown at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Fullerton Museum Center, Descanso Gardens, the Autry Museum of the American West, and the Soul Center for the Arts in Genoa, Italy.
For River's residency, he also took the opportunity to further explore the LAPL's neighborhood libraries. He created a stunning set of seven large mixed-media paintings representing five branch libraries and a diptych representing the downtown Central Library. The library locations were chosen based on his personal connection to those areas and their relation to historic Indigenous village sites and traditional practices. The works are richly detailed collages incorporating official library ephemera such as bookplates and library card applications, screen-printed contemporary design elements and messages of invitation to the viewer, Tongva words and iconic images of local significance, and native plants and food staples from the region like acorns and sage. River became interested in the library as an institution built around sharing. He felt compelled to use this opportunity to share perspectives from his Tongva community, one of the tribes acknowledged as traditional caretakers of the land on which our libraries now reside. His work prompts us to consider the complex histories and interrelated nature of all our public spaces in the city while asserting the ongoing presence and importance of honoring Indigenous voices.
Both Creators have engaged profoundly, and meaningfully applied their unique artistic lenses to exploring LAPL's citywide network of buildings and transformative services. They have created new bodies of work that expand how we understand our libraries' history and present role. The inaugural residencies culminated in a Showcase event on October 16, 2022, and a coinciding exhibition opening in the First Floor Galleries at Central Library. The launch event featured both Creators in conversation, a printmaking workshop led by River Garza, and a signing of Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin's limited edition zines and posters. The current exhibit will be on view until summer 2023.