Hotel Figueroa’s arts program pays homage to its feminist roots
Hotel Figueroa isn’t the only boutique hotel with an art program, or even the only one with exhibitions; others too have built up permanent collections over the years through acquisitions and commissions. But Hotel Figueroa is uniquely intentional in its integration of visual art into its character, in an inspiring way that specifically honors and expands its own laudable and pioneering feminist history.
It was opened in 1926 by the YWCA for an all-female clientele, as a refuge for women traveling alone who were prohibited from checking into most hotels without a male chaperone. Even through extensive contemporary renovations to its splendid 1920s Spanish Colonial style, it hasn’t strayed from that foundation. There remain several original architectural details that pay homage to this history, but it is in the hotel constantly evolving artistic program that the depth of this commitment and the joy with which it is pursued are felt. In addition to carefully edited artwork for guest rooms and a cloak-and-dagger exterior mural, the hotel has amassed an enviable permanent collection made up almost entirely of LA-area female artists, and hosts a regular exhibition of featured artists in its dedicated walk-through gallery. Even the elevator door landings have original murals.
The current featured artist is the luminous Ruthanna Hopper whose works are displayed in the main wall of the lobby and in the large vaulted vaulted space (as well as the HER Suite self-care micro-spa thematically stocked with self-care products from women-led businesses), until March 2023. Hopper’s work isn’t representative, but it’s not quiet, not just pretty. It’s swirling and moving, rich with untold mysteries in their organic nuances and hidden details. Like all of the hotel’s collected art, it’s not just flashy design punched across a space — it’s a contemplative, moving abstraction that suggests holding on to more than meets the eye. It is the perfect example of how Hotel Figueroa elevates the concept of what “hotel art” can be, what it does and what it means.
“Yeah, it’s pretty remarkable what they’re doing. Really, I mean, I feel like they’ve completely embraced feminist history in such a compelling way,” Hopper said. THE weekly. “It’s quite moving. It’s unusual for a hotel space, what they’re creating; it has that feeling of a home museum. From a visual artist’s point of view, it’s so fascinating that it’s this living organism that breathes. You know, it’s very interesting for me in particular, because in my practice, I feel rooted by my upbringing in the feeling of space and movement. I was so influenced by my grandmother’s work in dance and the environment, and my grandfather’s work in landscape. And those are the issues that they worked on as artists, that they would bring philosophically into this idea of being in space with human beings and constant movement.
Hopper (daughter of Daria Halprin and Dennis Hopper) grew up in Marin County, in the living laboratory of artists and dancers who gathered at the Mountain Home Studio to work with her mother and grandmother, famed dancer Anna Halprin , as well as his grandfather. , renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin.
“This is my first time showing in Los Angeles,” says Hopper. “But I’ve worked honestly as an artist all my life, in the sense that I grew up in an incredibly bohemian environment in Marin County, which had a really big impact on me. I grew up among dancers and artists, then wandered and travelled, and did a lot of different things. Only to come back to that, to come back to my artistic practice. The paintings themselves deal with issues of legacy and legacy, and what it means to face unresolved memory and peel back layers, to find yourself. This particular collection of paintings comes from a period of personal hibernation that met the collective wintering that we have all just experienced. And the practice of painting, for me, is a kind of contact with hope.
Halprin’s dance work was about discovering that we’re all dancers and “bringing it off the stage and into our ordinary lives,” says Hopper. His grandfather was famous for his progressive landscape design, and he was hugely influenced by his wife’s work – choreography performed in nature – and because he was so involved with the environment and landscape design, she was hugely impacted by her work in turn. So the idea of his works being presented in a bustling public space with such a rich history, and literally witnessing the formation of memories and the energy of travel appeals to Hooper. “It’s kind of a natural progression for me that I continue to study this work, push it forward, and have my personal practices very impacted by this space.”
Previous artists who have left their indelible mark on Hotel Fig’s art program include recent special guest Shyama Golden and, of course, Bella Gomez’s exterior mural, as well as beloved local artists like Shizu Saldamando , Wednesday Aja, Amber Vittoria, Sophie Kipner , and many more. The permanent collection includes popular and critically acclaimed artists like Lily Stockman, Sarah Awad, Jesse Mockrin, Heather Gwen Martin, Karen Freeman, Alison Van Pelt, Nancy Baker Cahill, Alexandra Grant, MacCauley, Whitney Hubbs, America Martin, Mattea Perrotta , April Street , Minas Halaj and Heather Carson. The halls feature edited works by artists such as Cate Parr, Kelly Witmer, Jess Black, Satsuki Shibuya, Ellen Cantor, Michelle Blade and others.
“I feel the energy of the women who have been there,” says Hopper. “I mean, not going out with it too much, but that’s just where I come from. I think of those traveling women and what it took to get there, to a place where they could live freely and safely as single women. And I appreciate how the hotel continues this feminist history. I imagine what this space looked like in the 1920s and who were these women who were able to go there. It was pretty radical, and I think by putting these paintings on the walls there’s kind of a continuation of holding that space, myself and others in the featured artist program and the collection. I really like flipping the script on what it’s like to bring art out of the usual spaces and into our daily lives. It’s a wonderful collection. I feel honored to be with these other female artists. It’s something.
Hotel Figueroa is located at 939 S. Figueroa St., downtown; hotelfigueroa.com.
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