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Artist Angela Nguyen’s rug critiques L.A. infrastructure and transportation

“WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?,” 2023, 84 x 60 in, Maine wool on monks cloth

(Angela Nguyen / For The Times)

The question “Where do we go from here?” is the center of this entire rug. It’s a saying that reflects getting around L.A. Where do we go from here when it comes to improving our infrastructure of public transportation? Where do we go from here when it comes down to wanting to get from point A to point B? “Where do we go from here” also can resonate with everything else that’s going on in the world. How do you get around in life? Those few words represent getting around in the city, subconsciously and philosophically, but also physically.

My partner doesn’t own a car, and one of his biggest values — he’s lived in L.A. for 12 years — is taking public transportation everywhere. I thought about him, and I thought about the trials and tribulations that he faces getting around L.A. I thought about the working-class experience of people getting around L.A. I thought about creating something that felt like a critique but that was humorous and satirical. I love incorporating humor into my work — I think that it translates better with an audience. And on top of that, I just love funny s—.

Whenever I work on a piece, once I have an overarching theme or narrative, I start typing in my notes app. I make a list of as many things as humanly possible, and then I try to connect them. My work is word vomit, or brain vomit, because there are so many things that I’m thinking about that I want to cover. For this work, I started with a huge bullet-point list:

  • “To Live and Die in L.A.”
  • Kevin Bacon Walk of Fame Star
  • Hideo Nomo Dodgers
  • Hollywood tour van
  • “Double Indemnity”
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Gaylord Apartments
  • Metro
  • Sepulveda Blvd.
  • Impossible parking signs
  • 101 freeway
  • Plane over LAX
  • EV signs
  • “Flintstones,” using your feet to drive
  • La Sombrita — “shade” and “light structure”
  • GM Trolley Conspiracy
  • New Boyle Heights bridge — bike lane to nowhere
  • Soaring gas prices
  • Review for the L.A. Metro being the absolute worst
  • Review of L.A. City being full of the “fakest people”

I wanted to start with L.A. iconography or Hollywood iconography, because that’s so foundational to the way that we see the city, and then I wanted to move on to the way that we see the city as residents, like the Gaylord Apartments — I live in Koreatown, and that’s such a staple. As a driver getting around L.A., parking is always difficult, so I included a really long and difficult parking sign. Then I wanted to move on to more of a critique, so I included La Sombrita, that shade and light structure that was implemented by LADOT, which they made a really big deal out of in the city — and they ended up revealing that it was just a f—ing shade. There’s no bench, there is no rest place for people who are waiting for buses or the unhoused. I also included a little bite from an article highlighting the new Boyle Heights Bridge, which includes a bike lane to nowhere, and the review of L.A. being full of the fakest people, which I totally don’t believe.

All these images are tufted with wool. I started tufting four or five years ago. So often, we see people learning to tuft to re-create another thing and to produce. The practice is so weirdly embedded in industry and quickness and getting it done faster for production — Western political economy, capitalism, whatever you want to call it. I want to counteract that. I want to make work much more slowly and patiently. When it comes to this piece, it’s interesting because I feel like L.A. is such a fast-moving city at times, especially when you’re in your car and you’re getting places, and I felt like taking the time to just create something slowly and patiently that reflects the times that we exist in was really rewarding. This is my densest piece to date, and it’s because I’m an Angeleno and have a lot to say about the city.

Angela Anh Nguyen is a Los Angeles-based fiber artist whose work satirizes the mayhem of America’s culture wars. Working primarily in gun-tufted textiles, her pieces are a tongue-in-cheek ode to the convoluted rhythm of life, often exaggerated and never serious on the surface.


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