project: MOCA

In the Little Tokyo Historic District there is a 40,000-square-foot warehouse with a coffee truck parked out front. Back in the 1940’s, the warehouse was used to store squad cars. Today, its concrete walls and exposed piping house contemporary art.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) was founded in Los Angeles in 1979 as the city’s first museum dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art. It now exists in three distinct venues. The main location, MOCA Grand Avenue — directly across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the newest addition to the contemporary art world, The Broad — showcases a rotation of artwork from the museum’s permanent collection.

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA — the warehouse in Little Tokyo — tends to showcase works of a more esoteric breed. On view now through January, 15th is Doug Aitken’s “Electric Earth.” It’s an immersive and awe-inducing collection of video installations, sculptures, photographs and experimental music. Each room you enter is new, and wonderful, and unexpected and goes to show that art can still catch you off-guard.

Perhaps the crowning achievement from Electric Earth is a piece called, “Song 1.” There is a song from the 1930s, called "I Only Have Eyes for You.” It’s been covered numerous times; you might recognize the version by The Flamingos. Aitken took the song and recorded it over 50 times with different musicians from varying music styles: ragtime, gospel, doo-wop, indie. The song is accompanied by video on a 360-degree, double-sided screen that seems to hover above the floor. You can walk around it, look at it from above or do like most people do and sit-down inside it. The video is roughly five-minutes and plays in a loop. Sitting there cross-legged on the floor, you can lose track of time.

Song 1 at MOCA

If you can’t get to The Geffen before Electric Earth closes, your next chance to go to the museum will be in February for the fifth annual L.A. Art Book Fair.  

The third MOCA location is the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, which features rotating exhibitions of architecture and design.

Take Note:

  • If you buy tickets to either of the Downtown Los Angeles locations, you get entrance to both for the entire day.

  • There is an express bus that will get you from the Grand Avenue location to the Little Tokyo location and vise-versa.

  • If you take the Metro, you get two-for-one entrance to the Downtown locations.