You are most likely to come across the work of artist Rebecca Lowry when you least expect it. My first experience was when parking in West Hollywood; looking up at the sign hovering over my parking spot to check the restrictions, I was instead treated to a poem:
AUTUMN WINDS BLOW
LEAF REMAINS THE
WAY IT WAS
I experienced a beautiful pause at the moment I was assessing my risk of punishment.
These street sign poems are collectively titled “REGARD.” and are scattered around West Hollywood. They were part of the show “Urban Intervention,” which opened Jan 13, 2010. Organized by ArtLab21 and the LA Art Association as part of their Urban Intervention Project, the show’s opening featured Lowry’s signs, both in a gallery setting and installed around the city.
But the street signs almost didn’t happen.
Lacking funding, Lowry originally thought she would have to manufacture and install the signs herself as guerrilla pieces — not a preferred route, as the signs would be of a lower quality, not likely to stay in place and because not everyone likes creeping around in the dark causing trouble.
Through a lucky meeting (Lowry happened to have one sign in the trunk of her car at the right moment) the signs caught the attention of West Hollywood Cultural Affairs Administrator Andrew Campbell. Campbell recognized the beauty these subtle gestures could bring to the pedestrian culture of West Hollywood.
With the support of West Hollywood’s “Art on the Outside” program, the signs were manufactured like any other street sign and officially installed by the city’s own workers.
Lowry’s original intention was to place similar signs all over the city of Los Angeles, but West Hollywood, with its mix of residents in a small area, made for a perfect proxy. The signs are in English, Spanish and Russian. The Cyrillic script was a challenge for Lowry (who could not read her own work) but one that she felt added an additional layer of local context and meaning to the project.
They are still in place today, in good condition and bringing moments of unanticipated aesthetic meditation to our streets.
Rebecca Lowry got her start as a Los Angeles artist in the small but influential West Hollywood gallery scene. Her work is generally based on communication and the ways that different kinds of writing convey meaning — even, or especially, if one does not comprehend what that meaning is. The act of decoding takes an individual out of his or her life for a moment and Lowry utilizes that instant of confusion to provoke reflection — a provocation of beautiful tension.