A Gallery Built Inside a Los Angeles Swap Meet
In 2016, artist Phil America began his "Unauthorized Galleries" series, building gallery spaces in illegal locations like abandoned subway tunnels and the US/Mexico border. The latest installment in this series is "Legal Goods", a gallery built inside Bonito's Swap Meet in the notorious MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles. On display are works created entirely by artists that are currently or at one time were incarcerated.
This installment in the series is different than the ones that came before: though Phil America has the permission and trust of the swap meet's owner, the gallery is illegal in the sense that it is in and among other illegal shops, shops selling illegal and stolen goods and shops run by illegal immigrants. Tucked away in the corner of a busy and packed building, it is one of the least likely places you'd think to find a swap meet.
For the creation of this gallery, Phil America teamed up with Think Tank Gallery, who was recently forced to close its venue based on new enforcements create in response to the Oakland Ghost Ship fire in late 2016. Wanting to create something new and experiential in public space, they worked together to create "Legal Goods", which Phil America intends to be both a living artwork that you can enter and purchase items, and a traditional gallery show with work by artists such as Shepard Fairey, Robbie Conal, Fuzi UV TPK, Utah and Ether, and Dorian Lynde.
However, the highlight of "Legal Goods" is the work created in prison and smuggled out to be put on display. Wallets and belts woven from cigarette packages, crosses made from stricken matches, rosaries carefully braided from blanket fibers, dice made from toilet paper, and black paper roses are for sale. These not only highlight the beauty and creativity that can emerge from such a dark situation, but serve to financially support those artists and craftsmen in prison who have no other means.
"Legal Goods" is on display until the end of April at Bonito's Swap Meet. It is asked that attendees purchase am item at a minimum of $5.00 from one of the neighboring swap meet stalls. Everything in the show is available online at the Legal Goods store.