Isabelle Lutterodt is the director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the former director of Angel’s Gate Cultural Center. Isabelle is an accomplished artist who has an M.F.A. from Cal Arts and has had a long career as an exhibiting artist, curator, and educator. Known for her progressive approach to museum education, her projects all have unique participatory elements.
It was painting that led the Modernist charge in challenging bourgeois values with radical aesthetic shifts nearly every decade. In the current market driven art climate, it is difficult to imagine the outrage that artists from Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism once provoked. The dissident, uncompromising, and subversive nature that once characterized Modernist art has been abandoned in favor of the thriving speculative, neo liberal $64 billion economy of the contemporary art world. Traditionally identified with “luxury objects,” painting is particularly implicated in schemes of global wealth accumulation as demonstrated in 2010 when a 1932 Picasso sold for a record breaking $106.5 million while a 2014 sale of Andy Warhol’s Eight Elvises (1962) topped $100 million.
Critics bemoan the marginality of their role with the consensus that few qualitative choices are made outside the dealer/collector system. From Robert Hughes’ Art and Money, “Julian Stallabrass’s Art Incorporated, and Raphael Rubenstein’s compendium of essays, Critical Mess, to Robert Morgan’s The End of the Art World, writers have denounced the market’s hegemony with its lack of critical significance
“We enslave ourselves...by what we do, or by a self image...
We're slaves to the image we think people want us to be."
—Edgar Estrella, student artist, Angels Gate High School, San Pedro, CA
In The State of Human Trafficking in California, 2012, Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California, estimated that on a yearly basis 700,000 people, many of them children, are kidnapped within America or smuggled into the United States from around the world. Hidden in Plain Site: Student Artists Respond, 2015, addressed this phenomenon. Participants’ goals with the project were to raise awareness, invite dialogue, and take
action toward interrupting the exploitation, forced labor, and trafficking of human beings.
The longest history of arts practice in the entire world is held by community arts and public arts. The very first visual artwork created on earth was made by prehistoric people who painted on the walls of their caves. These cave paintings or murals, which have a lot to do with the creation of community, existed long before we had museums, symphonies, universities, operas, galleries, literature, or printed materials. People who did not label themselves as artists and perhaps didn’t even have a concept for what art was or could be, thought of experimenting with rocks and sticks and different minerals from the land to draw images of animals on the walls of their dwellings. Since the beginning of time on earth, humans have invented innovative ways to tell their stories and share creativity with their communities.
I still believe that art can make a difference. It’s not that I think art objects are outmoded or that art has to be social to be vital, but a couple of years ago, shortly after completing a year of grueling cancer treatment (is there any other kind?), I was walking through the courtyard garden of the loft building where I live when I thought, “I want to make something that has a direct and immediate impact.”
The word action indicates movement and performance. But to me, it also means silence and stillness. There is an erroneous belief that radical acts only involve protests and militant actions. And although I understand the necessity of these actions at times, I prefer what I call “quiet actions.” By this, I don’t mean to suggest that I have suppressed my passion and conviction; I believe in political involvement and awareness. On the contrary, my actions are more focused, strategized, and intentional. As a young immigrant child, growing up in both Mexico and Los Angeles, I bore witness to many injustices, exile, violence, poverty, and the power of government/institutions to take away basic human rights such as shelter, food and water.
“Damn! A holiday, another one...” I muttered under my breath and hung up the phone. No classes would be taught today, again, due to an issue with the deployment of correctional staff. I have been teaching Creative Writing at the California Institution for Men (CIM), the prison in Chino, for the past two years through California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) Community-based Art (CBA). With changes in staff at the prison, our ongoing program was being reassessed and reevaluated, including the manpower allocated to insure our safety. Teaching in the prison, I often feel like a wheel within a wheel, a tiny cog mindlessly directed to turn—but in only one direction—inside the throbbing of a great machine.