Artist: Ralph Acosta
Exhibition: ReLAX: Reimagining Los Angeles International Airport
Media: Digital Color Print, Vinyl Transfers, Short Film Triptych
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Marilyn Werby Gallery
Ralph Acosta is an accomplished artist working towards his MFA degree in the CSULB School of Art’s Graphic Design Program. He is also already an alumni from California State University, Long Beach through his Undergraduate Degree in General Studio Art. Approximately twenty years ago, Ralph graduated from CSULB and then headed straight into working full time. He later decided to head back to graduate school, and as part of his graduation requirements, ReLAX: Reimagining Los Angeles International Airport was born.
Ralph’s gallery bursts at the seams with 1970s airport nostalgia. The walls are covered in reimaginations of arrival and departure signs, using vinyl transfers to create minimal representation. Besides the actual sign labels with their corresponding icons and arrows, the walls are relatively bare. Blue and orange are used repeatedly as font colors, which pays homage to the original aesthetics of 20th century airlines. Several digital color print pieces are hung on the walls showing an alternate-reality LAX without crowds or distinct faces within them. Anonymous passengers are faded to white, creating a feeling of unfamiliarity. Another piece is in poster form, showing the alphabet and every numerical digit with the LAX backdrop of planes and palm trees. The short film consists of various plane-oriented symbols played on a seconds-long continuous loop.
Growing up in Los Angeles during the 1970s, Ralph stated that he always appreciated the LAX airport. This reimagining project reminds me of the mystical aspects of Mulholland Drive: ideal weather, a specific lack of car/pedestrian traffic, etc. From personal experience, I have found that most people aren’t quite as fond of the LAX airport as Acosta. Most air passengers actually actively condemn LAX compared to other large airports. The ReLAX gallery may be a passion project with the goal of steering viewers away from these negative connotations.
I felt that this gallery was lacking a core identity. It had various medias posted separately across the room, but these pieces felt like samples of a more concrete substance. The central theme of the gallery was a reimagined LAX airport, although the reimagined version was largely absent in execution besides a reduction in passengers. The alphabet poster felt completely unrelated to the gallery as a whole, having nothing but a picture of a plane in the background for theme consistency. If the poster consisted of the Pilot’s Alphabet, this could provide potential depth to the idea of exploring LAX culture, but all of these numerous artistic oversights lead me to find the entire gallery confusing.