Behind the cover: Los Angeles

This is clearly a post about Los Angeles, and it has fascinated me for years. Unlike what you may be thinking, I am talking about the Los Angeles from Flying Lotus’s album cover Los Angeles and not the city of Angels. Welcome to the first Behind the cover post.

The first time I’ve listened to it was when I was studying graphic design in Saint-Étienne (France). I would visit my family and friends in Lyon during the weekend, which is only an hour away by train.

I was at Thomas’s apartment, who is a great friend of mine. We were listening to music. He started to play the entire “Los Angeles” album. I mainly remember being amazed by the cover art, rather the music. I enjoyed listening to it; however, it was the cover that caught all my attention.

I was puzzled and intrigued. I thought that it was a better version of the famous Massive Attack album cover. It is such a great cover that, even though I am a trained designer, I was never able to figure out what is on it, until a few years ago. While researching for a blog post I was writing for work, I found the answers to my questions. It was right before my eyes. I was happy to find out what it was, yet, I felt disappointed.

For a while, I considered the image to be the photograph of a Grace Jones type of woman, wearing a strange leather mask covering her whole face, apart from her lips. Later, I moved on to the idea that the black shape on the white background could be a painting or a piece of 3D rendering. It turns out that I was wrong. Unexpectedly, it was a sculpture. A sculpture! I couldn’t believe it! All the images that my brain imagined didn’t exist. None of it was real. And, as much as I was disappointed, I was also relieved. Relieved that I wouldn’t need to torture myself in knowing what it was.

The sculpture, which was made by Commonwealth and then photographed by Timothy Saccenti is, however, genuine. So real that I’ve watched the behind the scenes video several times before fully digesting what I had just discovered.

Now I understand why Los Angeles looks this peculiar and memorable. I also know why it was so hard to get my head around it. I am happy to know that my brain still sees different things, even if I know that the represented object on the cover is a real sculpture.

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