Billboards in Digital Era
Images by 2018 The Billboard Creative Artists
By Claudia Shaldervan
This October in Los Angeles, The Billboard Creative nonprofit and founder of Musee Magazine Andrea Blanch team up with upcoming and established artists to orchestrate an open air public installation. Thirty one photographs will be printed in large scale and mounted on billboards across major junctions in LA: Sunset & Vine, Beverly & Laurel, and Hollywood & Western.
Incessant image reproduction of the digital age poses difficulties for upcoming artists. How does one respond to the multitude of images, their commercialization, and learn to view intangible digital files without misunderstanding their context? Commercial advertising changes in tandem with flashy trends that printed material struggles to compete with. Although the bulk of advertising is now internet-based, billboards experienced a recent resurgence; perhaps as a response to, or a means of increasing usage of online platforms. Advertising is omnipotent,“Of all the types of media used to disseminate the Ad there is only one which is entirely inescapable to all but the bedridden shut-in or the Thoreauvian misanthrope.” According to Recode, Major online companies like Netflix, Facebook, and Apple are increasing output of outdoor advertising as an attempt to further immerse consumers in the provider’s services. Conversely, The Billboard Creative and Andrea Blanch (whose work will also be on display) subvert the tradition of billboards to create a different visual dialogue. The project unites current artists and replaces a myriad of banal pictures with images that invite passersby to contemplate and engage in critical thought.
Artists Suzanne Revy, Naomi Harris, Marybeth Rothman, and Lissa Rivera (to mention a few) showcase photos exploring the notion of identity, sexuality, and culture through portraits and appropriated images. To shortly summarize, Marybeth Rothman’s The Hobby Horse pays homage to the Harlem Renaissance; specifically commemorating the opening of the first African American bookstore, from which the project’s name is derived. During The Great Migration, African American Families moved away from the rural south and into major cities, forming pockets of rich African American culture. The portraits, somehow reminiscent of high school yearbook photographs, are imagined depictions of artists, writers, and intellectual thinkers from The Hobby Horse Guild. Layered with blocks of warm toned colors, appropriated text, and images of buildings, these encaustic collages suggest city life. A different take on the understanding of national identity, Norm Classen explores the American West, in which a stereotyped form of male heroism, the vagabond cowboy, reigns supreme. His work is intertwined with pop culture and a Hollywood generated genre of romanticized freedom.
Images shape public opinion. To quote from the BFL Manifesto, “And so we see, the Ad defines our world, creating both the focus on "image" and the culture of consumption that ultimately attract and inspire all individuals desirous of communicating to their fellow man in a profound fashion. It is clear that He who controls the Ad speaks with the voice of our Age.” As art is contemporarily consumed similar to advertising, it is crucial for non artists and artists alike to understand the of repercussions image making. The Billboard Creative explores the aforementioned ideas and gives impetus for artists to bring about change through their unique visual poetry.