California Dreamin

In the gallery right next to Rise Up was an installation of Won Ju Lim’s work—in particular her lightboxes and lighted rooms which evoke the dreamy nature of nocturnal cityscapes.

Untitled
Won Ju Lim California Dreamin’, 2002

California Dreamin’ is a gallery-sized piece where images of sunsets with silhouetted palm trees are projected through a structure of foamcore and acrylic. It’s extremely Los Angeles. This isn’t a knock on it since it’s supposed to be Los Angeles but it risks feeling out of place in San José. As a native Bay Arean, I always kept LA a bit at arms length—in large part because of how often LA’s identity seemed to subsume the rest of California’s.

It was only after moving to New Jersey that LA began to feel like home. Now, with the way the Bay Area has changed so all the strip malls that used to house mom and pop shops and restaurants have been replaced with up-market food chains and luxury condos, LA often feels more like the Bay Area I remember. Yes the geography and vegetation are different. But the sense of the place and even the sense of the neighborhoods feels like what I want home to feel like.

I stayed in this gallery a long time. Took a nice slow walk around the entire structure. Let my eyes get accustomed to the light levels so I could really take it in. There’s something about that late-sunset time when the sky is still light but everything else is dark that I love. It’s time to finish up work and go home in winter. It’s time to finish dinner and get ready for the night in summer. There’s something calming about it not being night yet but definitely not being day.

The structure in the center of the installation suggested housing styles which are uniquely suited for this time of day. On the east coast, you’re not going to be hanging out on a balcony or walking around the street at this time. The weather is rarely amenable to it and homes aren’t built to accommodate this kind of thing.

On the west coast, this is peak go out and take a moment for yourself time. I haven’t done enough of that this summer but this installation reminded me of that joy.

Won Ju Lim Memory Palace, Terrace 49 #1, 2003
Won Ju Lim
Memory Palace, Terrace 49 #1, 2003

The Terrace installations have a similar feeling except that rather than being in a room which reminds you of being outside, these suggest the feeling of looking out your window and seeing the neighborhood wake up as the sun goes down. I love these pieces a lot too. They‘re still very LA but the foliage is different enough that they also remind me of the Bay Area and being out at night in the Peninsula or the East Bay where there’s just enough elevation to make things layered.

That cloudiness of the layers of acrylic also suggests a bit of fog is an added bonus. There’s nothing like a bit of marine layer to remind me of home.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

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