Fifteen years ago, on a trip to Los Angeles, the French artist Vincent Lamouroux discovered the derelict Sunset Pacific Motel, a building known to Silver Lake residents as the “Bates Motel.” "It was abandoned," says Lamouroux, who has spent the past week coating the entire site in lime, from the attached billboards to the sidewalks—not to mention the surrounding palm trees and razor wire fence—for his latest public art intervention, Projection.
The artist hatched his plan to whitewash the space two years ago, when he contacted Nicolas Libert and Emmanuel Renoird, the Parisian art collectors and proprietors of the downtown L.A. curio shop Please Do Not Enter, for help. "It's like a strange and weird postcard,” Lamouroux says of the notorious location on the corner of Bates and Sunset Boulevard. “You have all the ingredients you're looking for when you come to LA: an old motel, the palm trees, the billboard, the address. And then we discovered it was nicknamed the Bates Motel.”
The midcentury motel earned its Hitchcockian sobriquet by way of its notoriously hard-living inhabitants. "There was a lot of prostitution; they found dead bodies inside the motel; someone jumped off the roof once,” says Libert. “And one woman told me a nice story about how she had a honeymoon here."
The project comes at a crucial time, as the building is set to be demolished before the end of the year by developers who intend to erect a multi-use retail/residential/parking structure on the site. "It's going to disappear, so Vincent is working to erase the building," explains Libert. "To me, lime is not a paint, it's a sculptural material”—one that is meant to erode over time, although it faded just before Sunday’s opening due to an unexpected downpour the day before. "It deals with appearance and disappearance,” Libert adds.
With Projection, there are no attendant texts, no clues, no statements, and no entry to the site, just some simple lighting so passersby will be forced to slow down and project their own meanings—and hashtags (the Instagramming crowds spilled onto the street and stopped traffic this weekend)—on this ephemeral piece. "During the installation a lot of people thought we would be projecting something on the building. They all asked, When will the projection start?'' says Libert. "We did our job. But the projection is your job."
“Projection” is on view through May 10 in Los Angeles at 4301 Sunset Blvd.