New exhibit showcases life on Skid Row

The Downtown art gallery Crewest opened its doors Saturday to an eager crowd awaiting the newest exhibition: “Faces of Skid Row.”

Street art · Crewest art gallery’s latest exhibit features works from various artists with ties to the homeless communities in Los Angeles, including the work of featured artist Mason Brown, whose cardboard statue, named “Clocky,” blends clock symbolism with fortune-telling. - James Violette | Daily Trojan

Curated by Luna George, the exhibit is an effort to raise awareness about homelessness in Los Angeles. George focused her attention on Skid Row and gathered artists based on their relationship with the streets.

The gallery features Los Angeles-based artists that work through a variety of media, including graffiti, photography, watercolor, cardboard and canvas.

“This is just an exhibition to bring awareness to the fact that [homeless] people are living out there, and when [visitors] leave this gallery, they are going to see the reality and they are going to totally understand what we are talking about,” George said.

Crewest joined efforts with The Midnight Mission, a nonprofit organization committed to bettering the lives of the homeless, to promote Faces of Skid Row as both an art exhibit and fundraiser. Running through Oct. 31, the exhibit will coincide with another Midnight Mission fundraiser on Oct. 23.

The Midnight Mission is a service organization located on Skid Row for more than a century and continues to provide education, counseling and job placement to Skid Row residents. All contributions made at the door were donated to The Midnight Mission; and several artists  pledged the profits from the sale of their pieces.

Located just north of campus, Crewest sits on Winston Street, between South Main and South Los Angeles streets. Since its arrival on the art scene in May 2002, Crewest has celebrated street art and the culture that surrounds it.

“The talent that we have coming in here is so urban, and we’re very much into promoting graffiti art and street art only because the other venues don’t really cater to that type of art,” George said. “We are constantly committed to promoting our talent, whoever it is.”

“Faces of Skid Row” features an installation by artist Mason Brown, an accomplished filmmaker and graphic artist. Brown’s installation introduces gallery-goers to his cardboard creation “Do you know what time it is? Clocky does…” According to a statement issued by Crewest, Clocky is “a fortune telling machine cloaked under the guise of a temporal devise.” George said that Brown is an artist and a humanitarian who found a way to blend both in his arresting art pieces.

Other parts of the exhibit at Crewest include the work of well-known Los Angeles street photographer Eriberto Oriol. Among the photos displayed were Skid Row residents that many visitors immediately recognized. Shown next to Oriol’s photography was the work of his son, Estevan Oriol. Both father and son have been immersed in Los Angeles street culture for some time, and their work was a focal point of the exhibition.

Also showing at “Faces of Skid Row” is a formerly unknown artist who works under the moniker Lito. George approached several nonprofit organizations in the Skid Row area in hopes of discovering artists that she could feature at the exhibition. Because of a lack of funding, George learned that many of the nonprofits did not have art programs for the homeless.

“The only [artist] I was able to find yet is this guy Lito, and he’s actually only been drawing for six months and he lives in the Skid Row area,” George said. “He has just a little box with a pencil and eraser, and for him it’s making him happy.”

In this tumultuous financial climate, galleries are apprehensive to take chances on showing new artists; Crewest is devoted to giving street art the respect it deserves no matter who is behind the art.

“We believe in seeking talent,” George said. “Talent can be everywhere and anywhere and all talent deserves the right to show their art.”