How Vincent Enrique Hernandez’s Valley Tours Wound up as Part of an Exhibition at the Hammer Museum

818 on tour.

  • Category
    Arts, People
  • Written by
    Diane Haithman
  • Photographed by
    Jeffrey Fiterman

Artist Vincent Enrique Hernandez, a proud native of Van Nuys, admits he’s better at explaining San Fernando Valley culture by focusing on what it is not rather than what it is.

“It’s not what people say it is,” Vincent contends. “People are always talking smack about the Valley: ‘It’s a cultural wasteland.’” Understanding the Valley, he says, is “about recognizing what has been said about it and then picking it apart and utilizing it and going against it at the same time.” The Valley, according to Vincent, embodies all the clichés of suburbia, but with a self-awareness that defies its media image.

“It’s suburbia, but it’s suburbia turned on its head.”

Vincent, a 25-year-old CalArts grad, makes a mission of countering the stereotype of strip malls, tract homes, clogged freeways and airheaded mall rats (you remember Moon Unit Zappa’s 1980s pop hit “Valley Girl”?) with a personal love letter to the 818. He creates performance art out of taking visitors on a Valley tour in his 36-year-old Volvo, pointing out the history, landmarks and secrets of a famously misunderstood area. Now his tour and his unique postcard art are part of the biennial Made in L.A. 2023: Acts of Livingexhibition at the Hammer Museum at UCLA.

Vincent’s contribution to Made in L.A. 2023, which is free to the public, includes a Valley Tours promotional poster and Vincent’s 2019 map of local highlights, surrounded by his self-published picture postcards of Valley landmarks. Visitors who want the full experience can enter a lottery to win one of Vincent’s multi-hour weekend tours.

“It’s suburbia, but it’s suburbia turned on its head.”

Made in L.A. 2023 is the sixth iteration of the biennial exhibition. It features 39 contemporary artists or artist collectives from the LA area and runs through December 31. The exhibition, curated by Pablo José Ramírez and Diana Nawi, encompasses sculpture, assemblage, painting, drawing, ceramics, installation, and, of course, performance—as in Vincent’s tour.

For Vincent, it’s about finding the beauty hidden in suburban sprawl. “Whether you’re in Hollywood or you’re in another part of town, you see the double-decker red bus or the van with the roof chopped off and some guy with a headset yelling at a bunch of people,” he says. “I was like, OK, well, maybe there’s a different version of this.”

Vincent’s version focuses on unsung sites and facts about the Valley. He points out Studio City’s Sushi Row (the highest concentration of sushi restaurants outside of Japan), and his favorite high school hangouts. He also includes better-known sites such as Judith Baca’s “Great Wall of Los Angeles” mural.

Curator Ramírez says Vincent’s art reflects the exhibition’s title. “He works at the borders of art and life. It doesn’t matter if it’s art or not. What matters is that he’s doing something that makes sense for him and the community.”

By the way, there’s another nod to the Valley in Made in L.A. 2023: Guatemalan American artist Jackie Amézquita’s “El Suelo que nos alimenta” (“The Soil That Feeds Us”), a work that comprises 144 earthy brown slabs, each one a 12-inch square depicting scenes from LA neighborhoods including the NoHo train station, a park in Northridge and Circus Liquor’s famous clown sign. The slabs are made in part of soil gathered from the neighborhoods they depict.

Made in L.A. 2023: Acts of Living, Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood

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