Exhibition by David Weldzius
November 11 – December 16, 2023
Opening Reception: November 11, 2pm – 6pm
Art in the Park is pleased to present David Weldzius’s “Public Works,” an exhibition that brings together three projects that meditate on free speech, the right to the city, and the historical role of social welfare in times of grave economic hardship.
Upon entering the gallery, one first encounters a series of plywood boxes, sculptures screen-printed with the graphic logos of soap and detergent brands. Flipped upside down, Weldzius’s soapboxes recall the way public speakers have used makeshift crates as platforms for public speech—in parks and on street corners—since the early nineteenth century. While soapboxes have historically been used for political speech, they have also forever been marked by the interests of commerce. Soapboxes invites visitors to use the single standing platforms for spontaneous expression (please speak!), and to consider the value of the civic spaces that we occupy together.
The municipal building where Art in the Park is headquartered was originally a clubhouse for lawn bowlers. The surrounding park and the nearby freeway were built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federal New Deal program that provided millions of struggling workers with employment during the Great Depression. Weldzius has included three works from his series Relief on the fireplace mantel. Relief consists of plaster copies of the dates (1937 – 1940) impressed on the concrete parapets of freeway overpasses. One plasterwork honoring the year the building was constructed, 1939, has been enmeshed with the building façade.
The interior gallery walls present works from Weldzius’s History Painting, a new series of photographs of “No Trespass” signs which surround the nearby Ascot Hills Reservoir. The signs are covered in layers of graffiti by anonymous contributors that are then routinely painted over and redacted by city workers before being tagged again. Photographed weekly, these images document the history of citizens actively marking their presence on restricted public land. For Weldzius, their graffiti (literally the writing on the wall) functions as a spontaneous act of resistance to privation—low wages, high rents, police violence, and climate apathy, among other grievances.
Taken together, “Public Works” captures both the collaborative and antagonistic spirits with which we engage in using “public” space that is all too often in danger of private usurpations. In his exhibition, Weldzius both celebrates and criticizes the historical use of the commons, nevertheless offering a hope-claim for its future.
David Weldzius is an artist based in Los Angeles. He has exhibited at Kordansky Gallery,
MAK Center, and Stephen Cohen Gallery, among other venues. In 2012, he was an artist
resident at the Terra Foundation of American Art in Giverny, France. His work is in the
collection of the California Museum of Photography. To date, Weldzius has published two essays with X-TRA Contemporary Art Journal.