A forgotten hospital in West Adams has been repurposed as an art gallery. With so many trendy art shows popping up around Los Angeles, it is easy to assume this unusual venue is just an attempt to one-up the hipster competition. Yet this exhibit titled “The Human Condition,” goes beyond the hipster narrative and captures what it feels like physically and emotionally to be human.
The exhibit, organized by LA-curator John Wolf, runs until the end of the month. Art by more than 80 artists fills three floors of the old hospital and includes paintings, sculptures and installations.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center (LA Metro), the hospital where the exhibit is held, opened in 1971 and served the West Adams community for decades. In 2012 the hospital’s parent company, Pacific Health Corp, was charged with insurance fraud in federal court. LA Metro closed amid insurance and mismanagement scandals the following year. The building has sat empty ever since.
Entering the hospital now to see the exhibit, it feels frozen in time. The hospital seems to be waiting for the doctors and patients to return, but in the meantime, the art is there to keep it company.
On the surgery and labor and delivery floor, laminated signs remain posted by the front desk, informing visitors of “Patient Rights.”
On the other side of the desk is a pop art painting by Greg Colson aptly called “Leading British Phobias.” In pie chart format, the piece illustrates that Brits are afraid of things like needles, clowns and spiders.
On the psych floor, the whiteboard in the dining lounge still reads: “Today is Monday/ Lunes. The date today is April 8th 2013. The weather today will be 69° downtown.”
Across from the whiteboard, an impressionistic painting by Danny Fox titled “Garden of American” covers the beige wall. The work is mostly black and white; in it a group of men sit side by side, dots fill the space above their heads.
The art has a wide variety of styles. Some pieces are beautiful, some are funny and some pieces are eerie and haunting.
The Special Care Unit features a portrait by Peter Stichbury. It depicts a blonde woman with a piercing, blue-eyed stare and is titled “Nash Fortenberry, Pan Am.”
A room marked “Surgery Recovery Personnel Only” holds an installation called “Evil Eye” by Amir H Fallah that looks like the world’s messiest bedroom lit only with purple neon lights.
Untitled green and blue sculptures by Nick van Waoert sit on tables in the cafeteria. They look like clusters of dots from the front, but looking to the back of the sculptures, human figures appear as if they are trying to rip free from the prison of the colored plastic.
Then, there is the building itself. Its melancholy pastel walls, in need of a new coat of paint, and its heavily worn carpeting are too a work of art that perhaps could be titled “Used Hospital.” The many who have walked its halls and the memories held in the walls make the inanimate structure feel alive. There is an element of voyeurism as viewers walk about the exhibit, peeping into the building’s private spaces, offices and storerooms.
At times it seems as if the hospital is welcoming both the viewers and the art as a chance for the building to have a new life. The place that once held the most fundamental moments in a human life, birth and death, is now home to an artistic representation of the human experience. The hospital seems like the perfect place to ponder art that is trying to capture the human condition.
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