Cops Create Hippies, Parker Center, Los Angeles by Keith Vaughn

“Cops Create Hippies, Parker Center, Los Angeles,” oil on canvas, 16x20in, 2009

Two of my recent paintings depict buildings in Los Angeles that have figured prominently, though inconspicuously, in cultural histories that have fascinated me since adolescence. The buildings are the Parker Center, the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Hall of Justice, which among other things, houses courts and the county coroner. The histories are the strange and morbid tales of drug fueled crime and perversion in Los Angeles after 1965.

Hippies Create Cops, Hall of Justice, Los Angeles by Keith Vaughn

“Hippies Create Cops, Hall of Justice, Los Angeles,” oil on canvas, 16x20in, 2009

The paintings, formally and conceptually, reflect my personal fascination with Los Angeles in the late 1960’s, and also my persistent enthusiasm for holding oppositional forces in equilibrium, creating a dialog between perceived opposites. The buildings are grids rendered in neutral tones over saturated, intuitive streaks of color. Two visual language systems combine to make a whole. By presenting the Parker Center and the Hall of Justice alongside the visual cues of psychedelia I indicate the possibility of repositioning cultural information into new shapes, creating new ways to interpret stories.

Harry Morgan and Jack Webb as Officer Bill Gannon and Sgt. Joe Friday

Harry Morgan and Jack Webb as Officer Bill Gannon and Sgt. Joe Friday

A version of L.A. noir was played out in the media of the late 1960’s. The news coverage of the trial and conviction of the Manson Family was often dubious and exploitive. Jack Webb’s televised tributes to the LAPD, “Dragnet” and “Adam-12,” tell the story of a city fighting hard against riots, flesh peddling and murder—all of it soaked in LSD and wreaking of grass.

In this context, images of the Parker Center and the Hall of Justice represent not just the other side of colorful hippie hype, but icons of an entity, or force beyond the self. They are contemporary ritual sites every bit as mysterious and grandiose as places like Chichen Itza, or the Great Pyramid in Giza. Theories abound with regard to the divine or extra-terrestrial design of these ancient places, so palpable is the sense that these structures represent cosmic concerns. Images of such ritual sites, ancient and contemporary, the Parker Center and the Great Pyramid, are the visual counterparts to speculative tales of ideology, justice and governance.

Chichen Itza

Image copyright 1999 by Televideos.