As Space Becomes Scarce, Artists Take Over an Abandoned LA Structure

LOS ANGELES — On Mount Washington, a lush hillside neighborhood where the median sale price for houses is $1.2 million, property is coveted. Its bungalows and Spanish-style cottages inspire jealousy in a city where finding a place to live is a luxury — let alone finding space to show artwork. 

So when Alberto Cuadros and Laura Black of the Society of Art Los Angeles (SALA) stumbled upon a Craigslist ad for a cheap storage space up in the hills, they knew they’d hit a jackpot. In collaboration with Guerrero Gallery in Glassell Park at the bottom of the hill, they mounted Revel Hall, an exhibition of works by ceramic artist Amelia Lockwood and sculptor Chris Lux in a rotting, dilapidated structure.

The show opened at the tail end of Frieze Week, a departure from the typical white-cube gallery serving oxidized chardonnay in stuffy environs. The experience of Revel Hall was so popular that the one-week exhibition became month-long, with every day booked with appointments.

“We asked ourselves: What can you do with a house that doesn’t function as a home?” Black told Hyperallergic. “Nature knows more about the creative process than we do, so let’s get out of its way.” 

Sculptures by Amelia Lockwood and a painting by Chris Lux against the backdrop of stained-glass windows
The lush hillside neighborhood of Mount Washington

The plot on Future Street sat abandoned for 20 years and shares a parcel with an existing garage that Cuadros uses as a studio. Accessible through an alley down uneven stone steps overgrown with grass and clover, Lux’s lamps and Lockwood’s fantastical sculptures melted into the environment around them. Stained-glass windows cast color onto the splintered wood flooring, while vines began to subsume the curling arms of Lockwood’s vase-like works.

Care was evident in every corner of the installation. The organizers rewired the electricity, thanks to handfuls of extension cords and the generosity of neighbors. Every wall plate and outlet was adorned with matching covers. Past the chandeliered first room, Lux’s mirrored table of lamps sat in what may have been a dining room, framed by a wide rectangular window. 

Chris Lux, “Pierrot Lunaire” (2024), flashe on silver fabric, 48 x 37 inches
Every wall plate and outlet was adorned with matching covers.

“I wanted that room to look cathedral-esque,” said Lux. For Lockwood, found objects around the property guided the installation of her own work, placing them “in cadence” with each other. In “Fire-Femina” (2024), she “flipped over a garden block and wiggled it into the sticks,” working intuitively with the house. “Green Star” (2023) by Lux, a five-pointed star with long skinny arms made in green glass and affixed to an exposed stud, was outfitted with a Bluetooth speaker and played music over the patio with a sweeping view of the city below and the mountains beyond. 

Chris Lux, “Green Star” (2023), glass, epoxy, lightbulb, 37 x 38 x 10 inches

This week, the Los Angeles City Council changed its policy on abatement for so-called “nuisance properties” — abandoned buildings — in light of the vacant high-rises downtown that were extensively graffitied two months ago, setting a new precedent for neglected structures. The new measure will allow the city to hire private security staff to guard buildings that present an “imminent, extreme, and immediate hazard or danger.”

In Revel Hall, the act of cultivating a property, clearing paths, and hanging up art in a gutted home became a meditation on abandoned spaces in a city plagued by a housing crisis. It was also an apt metaphor — a type of unripened garden plot with root rot and untrimmed weeds, but whose broken windows and felled walls let in so much fresh air in which to revel.

Amelia Lockwood, “A RAY” (2023), wood-fired stoneware and glaze, 23 x 19 x 5 1/2 inches
Amelia Lockwood, “Fire-Femina” (2023), wood-fired stoneware and glaze, 18 x 19 x 14 inches
Chris Lux lamps and glazed ceramicware on view in Revel Hall
A dilapidated structure became the site of Revel Hall, a two-person exhibition on Mount Washington.

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