Art isn’t just for galleries anymore. As Los Angeles is a known mecca for contemporary art, exhibition spaces are popping up in a variety of places: movie theaters, hair salons and restaurants.
The "out-of-the-box" gallery concept has been adopted at ArcLight Cinemas, where rotating exhibits of movie-related and community-produced art are displayed in the theater's Hollywood halls. Currently on display is "Mugshots," the work of photographer Jonas Mohr in collaboration with creative director Tom Moyer. The collection of black and white photographs is paired with dramatic character testimonials.
Mohr, famous for his creative and energy filled shoots, is one of Hollywood’s most requested photographers. His work with elite European magazines spans a decade and lands him access to some of Hollywood’s most fascinating and powerful subjects. His photography has appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair, Elle, Playboy and advertisements for Vespa, Disney, B.M.G., MTV and VH1.
Hollywood Patch caught up with Mohr, who explained how he went about selecting his subjects for "Mugshots” and why he chose the ArcLight to house the series. Moyer, the creative director of the show and the book upon which the gallery was based, chimed in with his take on what the exhibit means to him.
Hollywood Patch: Can you tell us a little bit about the concept behind “Mugshots”?
Jonas Mohr: "Mugshots" takes audiences on an unforgettable journey from ruin to redemption. The show mixes photographs and the experiences of ex-convicts and former gang members who have turned their lives around and became successful artists in Hollywood. The show is based on the 2008 award-winning book Mugshots, and combines candid photography with gripping quotes from the subject’s dramatic, real life stories to reveal messages of perseverance, hope and redemption.
Patch: How did you pick your subjects?
Mohr: It all started when I photographed Danny Trejo and Edward Bunker for GQ and Playboy magazine. The images and their stories were so powerful that I envisioned developing a book about their experiences. I wanted to know if they knew of more people with similar backgrounds and stories, and the book just took on a life of its own through their suggestions and recommendations. The right people with the right stories stuck.
Patch: What was the most rewarding part of this process?
Mohr: The people in the book were brutally honest with us. They pulled back the curtain and shared some very personal and many times uncomfortable stories about themselves. They did this because they saw the level of integrity we brought to this project and ultimately they really trusted us. Throughout the many hurdles we overcame producing and publishing the book and show, I am proud to say we have never betrayed that trust.
Patch: What message do you hope to convey with this gallery?
Tom Moyer: The awareness of hope. Hope for all the people who face the ongoing struggles of addiction or incarceration. Hope of recovery and ultimately redemption.
Patch: How long did this series take?
Mohr: We’ve been working on this for about six years.
Patch: What is your favorite photo in the exhibit and why?
Mohr: I would have to say the images of Danny [Trejo] and Eddie [Bunker]. It all started with them. Without them this project would never have happened.
Moyer: It’s very hard for me to pick one. They all have their individual power—like each person in the book. One image is particularly compelling to me. It’s the tattooed hands of Rick Thorne. The tattoos read, “never give in” and “never give up." It’s a perfect visual for the show.
Patch: What was the process involved in setting up this gallery?
Moyer: Since the show is based on a book, we wanted to make sure that we communicated the message, vibe and power of the story but we didn't want to fall into the trap of merely displaying a book on a wall. So we started by stripping the book down to its essential themes, quotes, images and graphic elements. Then we carefully reassembled the “essence” of the book to create a powerful, compelling and linear gallery experience. And Jonas and I toured the venue and tailored the show to fit the space and ensure maximum impact.
Patch: Why did you choose the ArcLight to display your works?
Mohr: The ArcLight has become such a fixture in Hollywood and Hollywood played such a huge part in this story, it seemed like the perfect combination. The space is fantastic and very well suited for the concept and layout of the show. We also wanted to find a venue that was accessible to a broad audience of people. This is an important message that needs wide exposure.
"Mugshots" will be on display in the lobby at the ArcLight Hollywood through July 19.