My “Auto Portrait L.A.” series awakens the viewer to the relationship between cars and pedestrians in Southern California—America’s most congested region. I grew up in Yerevan, Armenia, where the streets were teeming with people. I waded daily through a sea of figures and faces, an endless stream of features and gestures. When I came to Los Angeles 15 years ago, I found that the streets were full of cars instead of people. To highlight the fact that Los Angeles city planning is all about cars, not people, I populate my images with automobiles, and marginalize the people. I want my viewer to experience our crowded crush of cars. Proportion and scale support my message—huge, nearly life-size cars versus small people evoke a sense of helplessness. And composition—overlapping images of cars emanating from the center of the canvas—summons up feelings of chaos and claustrophobia. To heighten the impact, I use large-scale canvases and hang them close together. Placing people between the oversized cars, or moving them into the corner of the canvas, makes my audience feel how thoroughly out of place pedestrians are in our cityscape... unwelcome visitors in the land of automobiles. Can we make Los Angeles more walkable, more humane?
—Srboohie Abajian, 2009