Phil America’s series of Unauthorized Galleries utilizes unused and ignored spaces and recontextualizes them as an art space – a ‘gallery’. From flag poles to the US/Mexican border wall, he does not ask permission to create these galleries: he recognizes an area that must be activated and installs a unique series of artwork. The series began in 2016, with the ‘The Perilous Fight’, a ‘gallery’ space created in the subway tunnels of NYC, in an abandoned subway station.
‘Legal Goods’ is his latest unauthorized ‘gallery’ and takes a slightly different approach than the previous projects. This time he teamed up with a gallery in downtown Los Angeles, Think Tank Gallery, but has instead chosen a location that many other illegal sellers choose for their businesses- a local swap meet. The artwork shown comes from a number of different sources, curated by the artist and the gallery. Some of the items shown are ‘craft’ artworks made in prison as well as outside of prison by individuals who have done time and learned to make art while doing time. Along with those pieces, art by other artists from around the globe who have a legal record is shown.
All the signs in the shop are hand painted to emulate the other shops within the swap meet as well as other shops in the surrounding neighborhood of Westlake, a neighborhood that is nearly 80% Latino. The mural on the outside of the swap meet was also painted by Phil America with help from Think Tank Gallery. The ‘gallery’ will be open throughout the month of April 2017 from Thursday to Sunday.
Think Tank and the artist have asked that all visitors buy one item from one of the many stalls in the swap meet as a ‘suggested donation’. Other stalls sell items ranging from juice made with fruits imported from Latin America to jewelry shops and witchcraft stores. A portion of the proceeds go to Homeboy Industries, an organization providing hope, training, and support to formerly gang-