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If you’ve driven down Sunset Boulevard through Silver Lake recently, you may have noticed the old Sunset Pacific Motel — nicknamed the “Bates Motel” by locals — just south of Fountain Avenue has been whitewashed. The place has been an eyesore for 20 years, a hub for drug dealers and other criminals, and an occasional haven for the homeless, yielding three dead bodies over time.
To the unobservant, the site looks like it’s being prepped for a paint job, but the towering fan palms around it are also white, as is the billboard, the grass and everything else. It is not the work of Home Depot, but instead a work of French artist Vincent Lamouroux entitled Projection. In April, he and his crew spent two weeks preparing the site and have been maintaining its environmentally safe lime wash coat ever since. In the coming days, they will pack their bags and move on, leaving the Bates to lapse into its former state before being bulldozed to make way for a mixed-use apartment and retail complex.
“Talking about Projection refers to an idea of desire,” Lamouroux tells The Hollywood Reporter as he takes a break in his work. In his sunglasses and white sports shirt, he seems forever speckled in lime wash. “I like the idea that it is very blank, and it looks kind of unfinished. You can project any type of desires.”
As an exchange student at the Otis College of Art Design in 2000, Lamouroux frequently drove past the site and became fascinated with the dilapidated structure. He knew at the time he would one day do something with it.
“Vincent tries to give back the motel to the neighborhood so they can really express whatever it is they have in mind,” says Nicolas Libert, who, along with partner Emmanuel Renoird, funded the project through their art and design store, Please Do Not Enter. “That’s really what’s happening when you see Instagram and social media. People are using it for a number of purposes,” he says about the numerous fashion shoots and selfies that have use the all-white motel as a backdrop in the weeks since the project began.
In 2012, Lamaouroux filled the floor of Paris’ Abby Maubuisson with what looked like mounds of sand. Part of the point was to illustrate the principle of negative entropy, whereby an entity devolves to a pristine state that represents its quintessence. In some cases, it might be a fossil. For the stonemason Abby, which dates back to 1241, it’s sand. And for the Bates Motel, it’s Projection.
“If you see it against a gray sky, it’s almost a white canvas,” says Libert. “You couldn’t even feel the architecture. It’s really surprising how it plays with the light.” On a sunny day, Projection stands in striking contrast to the dark blue sky. It also offers an aesthetic respite between the numerous billboards and advertisements along the boulevard that scream for drivers’ attention.
Lamouroux’s own projections on the motel represent an outsider’s perspective. “This type of architecture, international style coupled with palm trees, the motel sign and the billboard as well, probably this is a combination of the L.A. idea that we all have, the California dream,” which is why he chose the Bates. “To me, it couldn’t have been any other place. It’s really site-specific for that reason.”
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