The beach/surf shack is a staple of the Southern California coastline. The word “shack” itself conjures up an image of a building mostly comprising driftwood and probably with little more than a hammock by way of interior furnishings. And (as the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach reminds us upon walking into its Art Shack exhibition), according to the United Nations, more than one billion people live in slums – settlements made up of shacks.
From this philosophical starting point, the Art Shack exhibition (on display from June 13 to October 3), explores the nature of the shack, it’s cultural identity, and how diverse artists can get when given an ambiguous brief.
Over 30 artists were asked to supply an exhibit (or supplied previously created shack-like works), which are all now installed over a number of floors in the Laguna Art Museum. It’s a very unusual exhibition, since so many of the shacks can be entered; a little like lifting the painting off the wall and having a look at the back. Doing so gives you a sense of getting inside the artist’s head through this unique and often bizarre blend of art and architecture.
My personal favorites were from two female artists, one of which was inspired by prehistoric buildings constructed out of mammoth bones, while another piece, starring a six legged diamond studded fawn, was so weird and incredible that it had us jabbering art interpretation nonsense for about half an hour. Duck into the gallery in the morning, while the Southern California coastal cloud cover is still burning off, and allow yourself to get lost among this extraordinarily artistic slum.
Footnote: The fact that this exhibition is taking place in Laguna Beach, a neighborhood favored by millionaires with distinctly un-shacky homes is, well, interesting context at the very least…