Monica Nouwens is a Dutch photographer and video artist whose most recent solo show, "Rubbernecking," was exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. She has also shown at the Stedelijk Museum Helmond, Gallery Paul Andriesse and the MAK Center at the Schindler House in Los Angeles.
Her work has been published in magazines such as Volume, Surface, Blueprint, Archis, Maxim, Elle and Wallpaper. She has also done commerical work for Nike, Levi's and Salvatore Ferragamo. Nouwens studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and Cal Arts in Los Angeles
In 1993, Monica Nouwens left Amsterdam for a visit to L.A. out of curiosity, however she never left. ‘I attended Cal Arts to study art and fell in love with the city, capturing its contrasts of daily life. On the one hand I created glossy shoots of dazzling Hollywood celebrity richness, and on the other hand explored the dereliction of violence-torn neighborhoods and communities. I was overwhelmed by the extremes of LA, so bizarrely complicated, hyped up and slowed down, sometimes third world and sometimes all new. I fell in love with the loneliness of South Central, this exotically remote hot place in the centre of town. I would sleep till late in the morning, drink coffee on the freeway and take any off ramp of 101 South.
The area is magical. I photographed Mercede Johnson who lives on 145th street, just turned 16 and danced. She called me later that she would be on television in American Idols. I met with two pastors who made a BBQ for the homeless on Saturday’s on Main Street. This is where I made photographs for a Nike video ad. I took a cross street and saw a fight. I spoke to guys who showed their tattooed tears. The area has a constant reminder of the past, the riots, the passing character of the city and the recognitions of endless violent shows I had seen on television about this area at night.
I loved the looseness, the long streets in the peaceful Californian sun, and the constant transformation of a city. I discovered a new pattern of urban rejuvenation, the temporary and raw drawings on stores, the inside cool and dark. I liked their temper and directness. A stretch of kitchen on the corner of Main Street, Freezers and Jesus portraits in bright colors temporary painted on shops. I photographed in the harsh light of California and drove in the shadow of the Harbor Freeway. This is where I photographed the 99cent stores that came up after the success story of the famous 99 Cent Only Stores across America. It’s a series on that time, that place: A mixture of laziness, loneliness and fascination as if I time-traveled within the city, without the tightness of city life.
Parallel to her photography made in South Central, she also photographes the perfectionist world of ‘ultimate leisure’. It’s the exclusive, private world of the beautiful, rich youth of a city with big ideals but conflicting dreams. They are photographed in and around the pools of the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Blvd and the Standard Hotel: on the roof of a skyscraper, isolated from the streets of the poor Latin American downtown, surrounded by security and connected to the rest of the world by laptops, Blackberries and mobile phones...
Link: Mondrian Hotel Los Angeles
Link: Standard Hotel Los Angeles
Pictures: Monica Nouwens © Copyright