Los Angeles:
At the Center and On the Edge

Justice for Janitors
Sylvain, 1989

Lotus Land, LaLa Land, Los Angeles. Smog and earthquakes, non-conformist lifestyles and civic unrest, movie stars and murder trials—Los Angeles continuously captures the public imagination and newspaper headlines. The media's focus on the eccentric and abnormal portrays a city without substance, hype without heart. Los Angeles: At the Center and On the Edge documents the important contributions artists, art collectives, art centers and community organizations have made to the city over the last thirty years. The posters reveal the humanitarian, activist side of Los Angeles, which differs radically from the laid back, hedonistic lifestyle so often attributed to the city's inhabitants.

Los Angeles is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and this diversity is reflected both in the artists and subjects of the posters. The issues depicted are wide-ranging: condemnation of racism, Japanese internment camps and the Rodney King beating; protest against U.S. interventions from Viet Nam to Central America and the Persian Gulf; demands for recognition of the rights of women, children, lesbians and gay men, immigrants and workers. The oldest posters are from the mid 1960s—ironically they depict police violence in Watts almost thirty years prior to the beating of Rodney King. The newest posters support affirmative action, oppose contemporary "sweatshops," and support the Los Angeles bus riders union. This rich poster tradition celebrates a dynamic aspect of Los Angeles often ignored by the historian. Los Angeles: At the Center and On the Edge provides a critical tool for those who would write a more objective history of the city, its struggles, ideals and its art.