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'Sunbather' street artists wanted 'invisible' dirt lot noticed

May 26, 2012 |  9:00 am

The artists who installed the life-size "sunbathers" in an empty lot in downtown Los Angeles said they were pleased with the public’s reactions -- and may even have plans for other abandoned parcels around town.

“We’re getting people to see things,” said Calder Greenwood, 32, a New York native working in Los Angeles as a multimedia artist. “It takes what’s otherwise invisible, and it gets people to notice -- It pointed out the fact that the lot was big and empty.”

His partner in the installation, who asked to remain anonymous, has lived in L.A. for two decades and has been doing similar street art since 2000.

“For years, I’ve been scouting this site,” he said, looking into the sandy lot on Broadway between 1st and 2nd streets downtown. “I originally wanted to put in a submarine, back when the lot was filled with water.”

The downtown site has been abandoned since 2007, when the seismically unfit Junipero Serra State Office Building was demolished. A long-stalled federal courthouse is planned for the dirt plot, and construction is likely to start later this year.

Greenwood's partner didn't want to give his name because he's got his eye on other spots in the city that are similarly “loosely abandoned.”

But “I’m out,” said Greenwood, chuckling. He had posted photos on his Facebook page earlier this week and wrote "haha made the news!" with a link to the post The Times published Wednesday.

The pair met two months ago through a mutual friend. Within four minutes of meeting each other, they had committed to the same vision.

Greenwood had been walking downhill from the Walt Disney Concert Hall earlier this year, and “this image of sunbathers just popped in my head,” he said, pointing to the street where many passersby were startled by the realistic art installation of a family sun-bathing as if at a beach.

The guerrilla art project took less than five minutes to set up Monday evening. The best part about cardboard and papier-mache is that it’s cheap and easy to toss over the fence, they said. They didn’t check the weather, but mapped out a plan — also on cardboard — and weren’t fazed when they discovered there was no longer water in the pit for their sunbathers. Even better, they thought.

Many people headed to the nearby courthouse or Metro station stopped to snap pictures, until the installation was removed sometime Wednesday.

“Unfortunately they were removed by someone else,” Greenwood said. “Who knows where they are now, most likely at the bottom of a dumpster. But I'm glad people saw them while they were up.”

It was the first time Greenwood had created something like this. “I didn’t expect people to notice it a lot,” he said, so the best part of the experience for him was watching the reaction. 

“It's fun seeing this story unfold,” Greenwood said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.”  

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-- Rosanna Xia

Photo: (top) Calder Greenwood's papier-mache sunbathers before they landed in a dirt pit in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Calder Greenwood

Photo: (bottom) Mannequin sunbathers lay out on their towels and beach chairs in a dirt pit on Broadway and 1st Street in downtown L.A. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times