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Event: Manifest Equality transforms
shuttered Big Lots into a gallery of political art

March 3, 2010 |  3:07 pm

The Big Lots store where Philippe Starck took me Christmas shopping in December 2008 has undergone its own stark transformation. After closing, the Hollywood store spent months behind plywood -- but through Sunday, it will be reopened as the Manifest Equality Gallery. The exhibit includes politically themed artworks by more than 150 artists -- including Los Angeles residents Shepard Fairey (of Obama "Hope" poster fame) and L.A. Times Home subject Aaron Rose -- addressing topics such as same-sex marriage, racial tolerance and personal liberty. 

The show was designed by the Los Angeles firm Commune, which erected housing crisis-inspired shacks, above, inside the fluorescent-lit space. Using donated supplies and salvaged lumber from ReUse People of America in Pacoima, the exhibition space cost about 40 cents a square foot, says Commune co-founder and co-owner Roman Alonso. 

The original artwork on display ranges in price from $40 to $40,000, with proceeds benefiting Courage Campaign. An on-site gift shop offers T-shirts, felt critters, $26 ceramic cups by Katsuo Design and $20 posters by Sister Corita, the noted printmaker and art teacher.

Design fans won't want to miss the work of Mike Murphy, who transformed two household items into stop-you-in-your-tracks installations. His "Flawed," below left, re-creates a shattered mirror as it might be caught in a single frame of a 3-D film, exploding outward at the viewer. In "It's Complicated," below right, Murphy conceals a sound system in the base of a heart-shaped table with a mirrored top covered in a shallow pool of water. A spotlight trained on the mirror casts a reflection on a nearby wall that gently pulsates as the sound vibrations ripple the water. After watching it visualize music by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, all I can say is if I had $18,000, this would be the first thing visitors would see when they stepped in my front door. 


Manifest Equality Gallery, 1341 Vine St., Hollywood. Open Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m to 6 p.m. The artworks are also posted online.

-- David A. Keeps

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Photos: David A. Keeps