Wrapping plaster vessels in bubble wrap, artist and alumna Maggie Hazen (’10) prepared to transport her art installation piece commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots from her studio to the Museum of Tolerance, where the piece will be assembled and displayed April 27 through May 13.

“I wanted to create something really bodily,” said Hazen of the piece. “The vessels are made out of plaster — they’re not pristine. I didn’t want to make it perfect because I see the LA riots as an extremely fleshly experience.”

The 6,500 plaster pots, bowls and vessels took her three months to complete after raising $2,500 in funding for the project. The Korean Churches for Community Development contacted her last fall to see if the young artist would be interested in creating a memorial piece on the riots, despite the fact that they couldn’t offer her payment.

Though Hazen was only 3 years old at the time the riots occurred, she decided this was an opportunity she should embark on, both as a resident of L.A. and an artist. 

“I felt slightly disconnected because it’s not a tangible experience for me,” said Hazen of the riots. “I can only pick up on these memories from other people. I’ve heard the anger. I just want to walk holistically; I may not understand the full culture.”

Working with students from the University of Southern California, she conducted filmed interviews with those who remembered or were affected by the riots to garner an understanding.

“I didn’t want to make another art piece that contributed to the noise of the situation,” she said. “Everything was so loud. The marching was loud, the police were loud, the fires were loud. Everyone has a voice. I didn’t want to be another clanging symbol in this loud dialogue.” 

Desiring to preserve the memory and voices while also exploring the geography of Los Angeles, Hazen set out to create an installation piece that would provide a visual for how different cultures occupy and share community space.

“There are so many layers to this city,” said Hazen. “There are specific territories and I’ve been able to see how different every sector is. You can’t go through L.A. unless you want to break cultural experiences. Somehow from that chaos [the riots], we’ve had a point of regeneration.”

Using geography as a point of departure, Hazen’s vessels will be mapped out on a platform in the shape of Los Angeles and placed by approximately 30 members of the L.A. community who were directly affected by the riots as a symbolic gesture of bringing healing and unity for Los Angeles. The installation, titled Civil Space: A Transformative Memory of the '92 Los Angeles Civil Unrest featuring "Of Departed Delineations" by Maggie Hazen, was curated by Eun Jung Park. The platform of the piece represents the geographical points where the city was most affected during April of 1992. The artist poured wax over the platform to further the idea of the riots as a bodily experience. The wax acts as a membrane like skin.

Seeing Los Angeles as a system and seeing a comparison to the functions and system of the human body, each vessel will be filled with basic food elements — flour, rice and cornmeal — which represent the occupation and unification of the Los Angeles community as well as the ethnic diversity in the city.

“Now that we’ve experienced the riots, we can look back and say this is what we need to do now and ask how are we going to deal with politics and sociological systems,” said Hazen. “How are we going to function cohesively in this societal system? I’m still asking that question.”

The film interviews Hazen conducted alongside the making of the piece and stories of five individuals who were affected by the events of April 29, 1992, will be created into a feature length documentary, which will be submitted film festivals.

The art installation opening will be April 30 at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles from 5 to 7 p.m. The opening is free to the public and the exhibit will be on display through May 13, 2012.  A special panel discussion titled “A Conversation on Art and the ’92 Riots” will also be held on May 1 from 3 to 5 p.m.

For more information on the piece, visit the Museum of Tolerance.

See more of Maggie Hazen’s art.

Watch the video below that assisted in fundraising. 

Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. For more information, Jenna can be reached at 562.777.4061 or at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.