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Arts & Entertainment

A portrait of the Mayor of Instagram: Garcetti's exhibit offers glimpses of artistic truths

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti with Collette Miller's wings.
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti with Collette Miller's wings.
Courtesy Gary Leonard

Commentator Mat Gleason is a local art critic, gallerist, and curator. He's also an art judge on the Game Show Network’s upcoming series “Skin Wars: Fresh Paint" and reviewed Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's “Mayor of Instagram” show at the Take My Picture gallery in Downtown Los Angeles. 

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Instagram has almost 81,000 followers. But is it popular because he's mayor of the world's most important city, or because he is a uniquely gifted, phone-based, square-formatted photographer? 

It's popular because Garcetti is the mayor, duh, but at the Take My Picture gallery in downtown L.A., you can be the judge.

Ninety-six of his Instagram shots are up in a show that benefits Homeless Health Care Los Angeles and the L.A. Public Library's photo archive.  

Every artwork reveals something about its artist, and an art show amplifies many small truths into one grand portrait of the artist. 

In politics, every true feeling is veiled in case the ultimate goal requires a change of heart, but in art one’s true sentiment is impossible to alter once the exhibition opens. So Garcetti is taking a big chance. 

Many of Garcetti’s photos in the show are taken from the air. While he fights to put drivers on a “road diet,” Garcetti himself revels in the luxuries of air transportation. 

We get a few cliché shots, but a also few gems: like the Santa Monica pier from above the Ocean looking inland, which gives us an almost abstract geometric assemblage instead of the typical shots of the Ferris wheel taken from down the beach.

And, in a shot looking from San Pedro toward downtown, the curvature of the 110 Freeway dominates the composition. It’s almost an upside-down question mark with the skyscrapers up the road as the dot on the punctuation. And it is a nice-looking city when viewed from these flying vestiges of power.

But this is also a 21st century mayor and this show embraces the diversity of his city. The brown and black faces that probably did not vote for him are celebrated in many shots that one can assume were taken from the tinted window of his black SUV. 

The results are less class-conscious and more celebration of who we are as the Southland. Embracing “we the people” is Garcetti’s masterstroke amidst all the shots of architecture and landscape. His message is "people matter more than campaign donors."

Speaking of people, the mayor is a "people," and curiously, while his Instagram feed includes selfies — his most recent features a huge fake lizard and men dressed as a penguin and a squirrel — there aren't any in this show.

Garcetti has an eye for icons, be it the Eloy Torrez mural of Anthony Quinn downtown, the Hollywood sign, or the ubiquitous City Hall, it is obvious Garcetti knows his status as “Mayor of Instagram” calls for a subtle but consistent boosterism. 

When he photographs the dome of old St. Vibiana’s Cathedral between two boring geometric buildings he lets the 19th century icon glow. The commentary is obvious but the delivery is subtle and successful. 

It takes a sophisticated artist to realize that the medium one works with can be allowed to speak. Garcetti has earned my vote… for Mayor of Instagram, anyway.