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By Roxana Vosough

 The often congested yet grand space, home to one of the world’s largest and most active airports in the world, LAX,

is using its space to turn heads as it dips its toes into

the art world.

Over the past several months terminal three welcomed visitors to Los Angeles with an exhibition of grand scale Polaroid images of Los Angeles’ most notable and historic sites, such as The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Malibu Pier, and the Capitol Records building. The iconic sites were displayed on grand scale Polaroid photographs against a beaming blue wall, reminiscent of the contemporary artist David Hockney’s colors. The exhibition, titled Let’s Get Lost: Polaroids from the Coast, was curated by the Dean of UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Joe Lewis, and comprised of an impressive thirty-year collection of works from iconic photographer Jim McHugh.

The exhibition, which was initially was shown in Paris and Brooklyn before flying  to the West Coast to be exhibited as a part of the Pacific Standard Time initiative in California, conveniently found its next home in LAX. The exhibition title, ‘Let’s Get Lost’, inspired from McHugh’s grandfather, was selected as an homage to Los Angeles prior to World War II. Many of the places depicted, explains McHugh, are now “dwarfed by modern architecture”. However McHugh manages to gracefully capture the famed buildings such as the El Rey, Orpheum, Wiltern, and Pantages theatres, which were once home to the new sounds of Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and Aretha Franklin.

McHugh explains that one should

“look at these buildings as celebrities themselves”,

although many viewers, instead, find the images vaguely and mysteriously familiar, like déjà vu.  McHugh’s photographs deliver, precisely to this audience. Curator Joe Lewis was so inspired by McHugh’s work that when “LAX put a call for proposals., immediately, I thought of Jim’s work. People come to LA and get a taste of celebrities”. McHugh’s work presents “a noir Los Angeles”, explains Lewis. Noir-style, often marked by gritty scenes and dramatic shadows, precisely describes McHugh’s style of photography. A majority of the images seem to be captured later in the evening, in those magical last moments of twilight when darkness starts to set on the city. “I shoot at the end of the day,” explains McHugh, “I like the dusky feeling.…LA was a much quieter place, and the light reflects it”. McHugh recalls nostalgically

“what a romantic place it must have been”,

referring to the Spanish and French names, given to many of the hotels, such as the Hotel Normandie, The Las Palmes or the history of the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, home to the first Oscars, and the notorious Marilyn Monroe.

 MMJ. Art Articles.    

​In regards to the curation of the exhibition at a venue as large as LAX, you really “have to command the entire space...Joe did a great job curating, picking out works that went well together, really telling the story beautifully.  Economy was really the key”. There was a “weird configuration, but he found a way to have the work have weight in that space—the installation was like a work of art in itself” explains Lewis. 

“Initially we were trying to get people to stop and look”,

Lewis explained, so they wanted to put chairs for people to sit and indulge in the work. However, that was simply not an option as airports are all about keeping the continual heavy traffic of people moving. This did make the curation difficult, however, the exhibition managed to capture people’s attention. The exhibition, explains Lewis, “was one of their most successful shows.”

​The exhibition also featured several iconic celebrity photographs taken by McHugh of John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Clint Eastwood. Ultimately the work exhibited was

“insightful, ingenious, and revealing”,

says Lewis. McHugh, in many ways is the modern day Julius Schulman, capturing a world that was, that is, that may continue to be, and that we will always have thanks to him.

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