The mythology of Los Angeles has survived decades of glory and glamour whilst concealing a much darker, livelier and honest self. Upon settling into downtown LA, Freeman noticed every detail and every individual that collectively compose the ecosystem she now calls home. Actors, gang members, musicians, homeless and business people alike remap our streets, painting the town different colours - but what do they look like all together?
As part of an ongoing project, the City Paintings are Freeman’s way of answering this question. Wanting to capture her version of LA, the artist recognized that it could never be separate from another’s experience, particularly in the downtown neighborhoods that she lives and works in. Her paintings embrace the juxtaposition of beauty and struggle with crumbling buildings and explosive growth. This diabolical mixture recalls the Greeks, their own tragedy, and fights to lace the surface of any Los Angeles experience with a newfound appreciation.
Kaye Freeman's L.A. Ecosystems
By Annabel Osberg
Kaye Freeman's "City Scapes" express Los Angeles as a peculiar ecosystem where beauty and harshness are inextricably intermeshed. Ranging from monumental paintings to diminutive drawings, her urban landscapes appear as febrile daydreams of vibrant color, topsy-turvy movement, and frenetic energy. Architectural edges tilt, cables wobble, and streets dissolve in free-flowing compositions where fanciful vignettes melt into one another as hallucinatory mirages. Softening urban infrastructure's linear geometry, Freeman presents the city as a sprawling indefinite organism whose lifeblood is a squiggled network of freeways, power lines, and telecommunication wires.
Just as Los Angeles' glamorous skyline ensconces dismal poverty, Freeman's whimsical style and dazzling palette of fluorescents and pastels belie darker significance.
This is especially apparent in her largest cityscape, DTLA as the Garden of Earthly Delights (2017). Titled after Hieronymus Bosch's apocalyptic magnum opus, this 30-foot triptych represents the city's perpetual birth, life, and death. Disintegration and construction progress sequentially from left to right through the triptych, while also occurring simultaneously from top to bottom in each painting; the fluctuant city is constantly regenerating. In the leftmost canvas, Santee Alley, tenuous cranes precariously dangle a tottering block of buildings high above upside-down trousers evoking corpses. Nearby, faces, inspired by masks of peoples indigenous to various world regions, represent the city's buried cultural foundation. In the central canvas, mountains of skyscrapers appear relatively halcyon; but in the final painting, Skid Row Diamond Dogs, dwindling skylines are encircled by ramshackle tents and preponderant vagrants painted in shadowy deep violets that jar the rest of the triptych's high-keyed hues.
Freeman's easel-sized streetscapes more compendiously crystallize her impressions of frantic urban uncanniness. Writhing overpasses erratically peak and dip like nightmarish roller coasters. Grimy gray graphite lines intersect blotchy celestial color fields of intermittently scabrous surfaces. Reeling high-rises perilously whirl under hot pink suns evoking bullet holes agape in golden skies. Expressionistic crimson brushstrokes evoke a bloody mess in Red 405 (2018), where a fetally hunched homeless figure doggedly wheels through the fuscous margins of a sanguine freeway river.
Hints of religious iconography insinuate ruin and redemption. Betokening mastery, telephone and power poles appear as crosses while also recalling slack-stringed marionette controllers. City of Angels (2018) portrays a scrawled white mystical form hovering above skeletal transients huddled in the umbra of glowing skyscrapers.
As a recent immigrant, Freeman asserts her own cosmopolitan background in allusions to Los Angeles' multiculturalism. She signs her drawings with her kanji seal and incorporates a recurring character inspired by the notorious Australian bushranger Ned Kelly.
Despite her cynicism, Freeman's ambition to portray Los Angeles through her copious collection of colorful cityscapes seems celebratory at heart. This exuberant painting series leaves little doubt that for the artist, living in LA is a dream come true.