Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The Ulysses Guide to the L.A. River
By Ulysses L. Zemanova et. al.
I'm nearly two years late in reviewing this book, but I've read it so many times that I figured I should post about it here. The Los Angeles River is a playground and a warfield for many forms of life, human and otherwise, and this book presents an in-depth look into this hectic waterway that crosses our entire city.
The first volume of the UGLAR Book concerns itself with two aspects of what the River comprises: biology and art. In the biology section, the struggle of the cycle of life is thoroughly explored with ample documentation of life and death in this biosphere. If you've ever wonder where those red welts across your midsection came from after a visit to the River, the book offers many not-too-appealing possible sources. Surprising and expected species are captured in their natural/artificial environment, a testament to the ambivalent relationship between nature and "civilization."
The art section presents a substantial collection of images of what Dondi would come to call The Battle Above Ground: graffiti. The author(s) also follow the River from beginning to end, catching the art of almost a century that has been plastered and gone over on all available surfaces of the River. From early hobo and cholo writing to 21st century L.A. lettering, the book has it covered. (Props for the excellent coverage of the 2 yard!) Adding to this historical perspective is a great selection of River-themed art by Michael Alvarez, Chaz Bojorquez, Chris Brand, Zes, SinerLTS, Rob Sato, Evan Skrederstu, Steve Martinez, Eric Skotnes, and many more.
From the book's website: "The culture of Los Angeles flows -- both figurative and quite literally -- through its central vein: The River. This book is borne from a fascination and love that precedes the attention that has shifted back to this flow. Fathered by the late Ulysses Zemanova and further nurtured by its co-authors/ editors, The Ulysses Guide to the Los Angeles River (UGLAR) moves beyond the overexposed culture of graffiti and misunderstood world of scientific discovery. UGLAR wishes to bring to light the authors' interest, if only to spawn more within its readers."