Indian Alley is an intense one-block stretch of dirty alleyway. It is paved with a mixture of new asphalt and the original hundred year old (approximate) red granite bricks that used to pave many of the downtown streets. It can be eerie and uncomfortable to be in sometimes, like there is a restless spirit residing there, always watching. It feels timeless and abandoned but walking it's length you get a sense of the history of the many that walked there before you. It is a quintessential downtown LA alley but also feels like it could be located in any major city. Due to it's noir vibe almost every TV crime drama filmed in Los Angeles from the old 70's shows Kojak and Charlie’s Angeles to the contemporary NCIS have used it as a set. The 1973 film The Sting, which went on to win eight Oscars, filmed an important scene in the alley and inside the building.
The Sting - 1973
The Sting - Robert Shaw and Robert Redford in IA - 1973
The 13th Floor - 1999
Kojak and The Incredible Hulk
Jean-Claude Van Damme in Lionheart - 1990 (notice the graffiti that says "apache")
ORGINS OF ART IN INDIAN ALLEY
Art and graffiti have figured into the alley for a long time. When UAII was here they had painted a large mural down the front of the building as well as a mural of a desert scene with a hawk flying through it (hawks figure prominently in the alley also but that is for another day/post). They also held a mural painting workshop for youths in the alley. The photo seen below of the door covered in native graffiti was taken in the alley in 1987 by an unknown LA Times photographer and shows various tribal names and drawings left by visitors to UAII and the alley.
from the LA Times archives - 1987
from the LA Times archives - 1987 and Dine kids from Arizona adding their names to wall, 2016
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF AMERICA
On May 2, 1986, 200 photojournalists set out across America to capture the life of a nation on film in a single day. The best 300 of these photographs, in color and black-and-white, are featured in this volume that was published by Harper/Collins in 1986 and sold in mass during that years holiday season. The photo below was published as a double page spread on pages 200 and 201 and shows two men mugging another at the 5th street entrance of the alley. The photographer, Sarah Leen, says of the photo "I turned into an alley and saw a mugging down at the end of the block. My first instinct was, Can I change my lens fast enough? I stood there, and I photographed the whole incident, then the muggers started running up the alley toward me, and I quickly turned around so they couldn't see my cameras. But they just blew right past me and disappeared. I thought maybe I was shaking too much for the picture to come out." This photo was seen by local artist Tanner Goldbeck as a teenager growing up in rural Baltimore and effected him so much that 30 years later he created an art exhibition inspired by it titled NEVER SAY NEVER that we exhibited in June/July of 2017.
Part of Tanner Goldbeck's show Never Say Never
THE CANADIAN EXILES
In the early 80s a punky diy artist run space called The Exile Gallery was located across from us and their back doors led out into the alley. The photo below, taken in 1982, shows artists Gary Worrell, Dennis Goddard and Linda Frye in the alley. That same building, known as The Canadian, was one of the first artists live/work buildings in downtown and over the years numerous artists have resided there with the windows of their lofts looking down into the alley. Today The Canadian is mostly an artists live/work building where several noted LA artists still live and create.
MAN ONE and CREWEST 2006-2012
In 2006 Alex Poli aka Man One, a legendary Los Angeles graffiti artist opened the highly influential Crewest Gallery that specialized in exhibiting historic and contemporary graffiti art in the same space that The Exile Gallery had inhabited. Numerous noteworthy exhibitions were held there as well as art education that Man One would teach to high school students in the alley.
High school art class in the alley 2010 and Man One/Alex Poli painting a canvas 2010
Man One/Alex Poli 2010
ENTER CALDER "THE DRAGON" GREENWOOD
In 2011 artist Calder Greenwood took over the first floor of the building. A quirky lanky young man obsessed with sci-fi films, special effects and 1980's culture, Calder makes contemporary Ed Wood type videos when he isn't building sets and props for films and videos. Shortly after he moved in we introduced him to our good friend local downtown street artist Wild Life. They got along great and within half an hour of meeting they hatched a plan to build a life-size three member family out of cardboard and papier mache and to install them in a full square city block fenced off vacant dirt pit on 2nd and Hill streets. When it rained a small lake would form in the pit so their idea was to make it look like the papier mache family was relaxing on the beach next to the small lake. Two weeks later they built the family, jumped the fence and installed the seaside scene. Someone took a photo of it that went viral. They continued working together over the years and eventually wound up in a cover story in the LA Times. They once built a giant black widow spider and installed it on the front of the building until it was moved and suspended from the 6th street bridge.
Indian Alley Today
In an attempt to bring some color and love to the restless spirits of the alley we began to recruit street artists to paint pieces having to do with the history of the building and alley. Wild Life, Teachr, Bandit, Free Humanity and Shepard Fairy were all early none native contributors but considering the name is Indian Alley, with the help of our friend, Navajo/Dinè film maker and photographer Pamela Peters, we began reaching out to contemporary native artists. Jaque Fragua, Ishi Glinsky, Steven Paul Judd and Votan have all contributed their energy and talents to the walls of the alley. Regularly we get native visitors from all over the country who have heard about the art and come to visit. We always encourage them to write their tribe or rez name or contribute to the wall somehow.
Jaque Fragua, 2013
Ishi Glinsky and Jaque Fragua - 2016?
VOTAN - 2014
VOTAN - 2014
LA street artist Teachr painting a portrait of Robert Sundance, 2013
Wild Life and Shepard Fairy, 2013
Insert pulled back photo of alley, Steven P Judd, CC,