So I’m reading all about Los Angeles at the moment, in Mike Davies’ much-lauded tome City of Quartz. It’s a fantastic read, and seeks to explain the inner workings of the city that is utopia to some; to others a “sunlit mortuary where you can rot without feeling it”.
The book is 18 years old now, yet still feels more relevant than ever. Davies examines, amongst other things, the grotesque disparity between rich and poor – which, to be fair, exists in all urban cities – but nowhere near the extent than it does in LA. He also questions the bizarre sense of transience, where “the nouveaux riches keep their bags packed, ready to bolt the city if it again catches fire or erupts in mayhem.” The same nouveau riches are, in the meantime, content to live in their fabulous modernist houses with fabulous views high above the working city, their lifestyles supported by an army of cheap immigrant labour that will do anything from picking up their dog shit to parking their car in West Hollywood.
Paul Davies is now exhibiting at Tim Olsen. Although he is an Australian artist his works have a distinct air of the Los Angeles of 1930s Neutra et al, with modernist houses and sublime swimming pools. His work uses the juxtaposing techniques of delicate paper stencils and great swathes block colour to create an illusion of perfection. Yet, vacant of people, I can’t help but feel there is something a bit sinister lurking under the surface. A bit like Los Angeles itself, really.