Artist Barbara Thomason’s paintings of vistas, bridges, signs, streets and everyday landmarks are in her new book, “100 Not So Famous Views of L.A.”
Among her subjects is El Coyote, painted in shades of reds. She writes it is noted for its margaritas and a burrito named after its first regular customer in the 1930s.
“I’d already painted various aspects of Los Angeles for years, and had a true affection for my city and its quirkier aspects,” Thomason continues in book’s introduction. “Choosing to paint 100 not so famous views was quite a logical move for me.”
Umbrellas on the patio across from the L.A. County Museum of Art Japanese Pavilion remind her of bats—the Pavilion is one of the “most unique buildings in the city, with exterior walls made of unusual materials that let in diffused natural light.”
Artist Chris Burden’s installation of vintage streetlights at LACMA illuminate a dark sky, a mammoth family at the “La Brea Tar Pits” and the “Hancock Park Short-faced Bear.” Among the sculptures of Paleolithic animals created and cast in cement in 1936 by Hermann T. Beck,
“I especially like the bear, just because of the way he’s sitting so casually on the rock,” she writes. The Astro Burger sign, a block from Larchmont Blvd., is juxtaposed against the RKO at Paramount Pictures. Peer at the 160-acre Park La Brea apartment complex through the highrise window of her dentist’s office.
A “historical anomaly,” it was built at a time when most of L.A.’s development was tracts of single-family houses. She pays homage to vintage 1934 Farmers Market with a still life of its familiar chairs and food stalls. Three coyotes roam in the foreground of a portrait of a weathered 1925 sign of the long-demolished Hotel Californian at the edge of MacArthur Park.
“It seemed like they belonged there,” she writes. Art Deco doesn’t get any better, she adds, than the Pellissier Building, home to the Wiltern Theater, painted in its characteristic blue hue.
She thanks the L.A Conservancy and developer Wayne Ratkovich for saving the landmark from demolition—twice. Her four-year project was inspired by 19th century Japanese artist and print maker Hiroshige, and, following tradition, are narrow and tall, about 15”x10”, and employ a graduated-color technique. This being Los Angeles, she scrambled her mediums, applying Cel-Vinyl paint used by animators.
The result is vibrant, quick studies. “I would not try to make them pretty. I wanted to express the city I see, not the one on TV and movie screens,” she writes. “There is also an edge, an unexpected tension, for nowhere do we encounter a human being.
It’s not just Western Avenue outside the Wiltern; Thomason gives us the city deconstructed depopulated, a shadow of the floating world…” author and book critic David L. Ulin writes in the foreward. “It reinforces the sense we often have in Los Angeles of being alone when we are on the street.” Published by Prospect Park Books, it sells for $30.