GREGORY HALPERN Channels the Manifest Destiny Mysticism of Los Angeles

“The glamour of Hollywood is a wealthy and beautiful subsection of the city, but it is a tiny fraction of what comprises the rest of LA, and I find it uninteresting,” photographer Gregory Halpern reflects on ZZYZX, his latest book set in Los Angeles. Following a grid pattern that splays into hills and valleys, Los Angeles is a lot more than Hollywood. It is a place composed of more than 80 distinct neighborhoods and districts. The city has so many names – the City of Angels, Tinseltown, La La Land, the Valley of Smoke – that it harbors a sense of dissociative identity. It adapts to the needs of those who call upon it. The former Guggenheim fellow’s most recent publication, comprised of 77 photographs, takes us from the dusty regions east of Los Angeles to the breeze of its western limits.

Our peripatetic nature is what pushes us toward better prospects in despondent moments, and ZZYZX is proof of such a promise. Picture yourself in the desert. The sand burns your soles. You are blinded. The gusts from rocky hills play a riff on scorching hot air. Rays of light bend into taunting mirages while you recalculate the remaining odds for change that grow smaller and smaller in your mind. This is the town of Zzyzx – the last word in the English language – a dead end in the Mojave Desert. Many Angelenos often debate about where Los Angeles ends, and it seems that this boiling interzone serves as the spiritual limit of Halpern’s LA. Oddly, none of the pictures in ZZYZX seem to be taken in the former pseudo-wellness community. Rather, the town is a specter looming over a sunny city that consistently feels like it is on the brink of a natural disaster. “The end always does feel closer in Southern California,” Halpern says, “Between the smog, the drought, the threat of earthquake – it may well be why Californians seem to have more fun, because death always seems around the corner.”

ZZYZX highlights the brilliance of the worn-out fantasies that often glare at us in LA. Halpern’s is a troubling kind of beauty – the ultra-American. The silhouette of a Joshua tree jolts through a piercing blue sky. A wildfire leaves behind prickly thorns in the stark landscape. Then, finally, a highway – a River Styx carrying angels through the sprawl. As Halpern moves us further west into the city, deeper into its crevices, a star-spangled palm catches sunrays and merges with a head rainbowed with dye. A cracked smile juxtaposes with a broken windshield. Dreamlike, tired faces greet us, and many turn their backs. Halpern exposes the impossibility of recognizing a person through a portrait, sensing the viewer’s impression as being a combination of the photographer’s subjectivity and their own assumptions. This fantasy is decisively unmasked by a piece of blue tarp, adorned with cut-out holes forming a giant smiley face. ZZYZX’s final pages bring us to the Pacific coast, the end of the road. Many are flung into the maelstrom of LA’s promise of limitlessness. A few lucky ones bask in its light, while others turn into mist.

ZZYZX is published 
by MACK 
(London, 2016).

Published in

Issue #32 — Summer 2017"US vs. THEM"

How do you find truth in an age without facts? The answer: wake up and stick together. In this issue’s dossier “US vs. THEM,” creative director RICHARD TURLEY explores how the Global Right Wing’s blatant disregard for reality has given us all a license to become Nonsense Warriors. Turning away from “them” and towards “us,” CATHERINE OPIE, NICOLAS GHESQUIÈRE, and STEFANO PILATI take us into their inner circles of friends, while COLLIER SCHORR turns BELLA HADID into Lisa Lyon. We revisit the work of MICHAEL SCHMIDT, and how his community workshops turned Berlin into a cauldron of contemporary photography. JACKIE NICKERSON shows us what Robert Longo looks like with a faster Internet connection, while CARSTEN HÖLLER takes us into his kitchen to explore the post-digital nature of food. We speak with VIRGIL ABLOH as he plots a fashion industry coup d’état and follow JASON DILL on a skate odyssey to hell and back to Fucking Awesome. And, last but not least, we make a pilgrimage to Santo Sospir, the villa on the Riviera where JEAN COCTEAU created his greatest Gesamtkunstwerk.

Also included with the issue, our “HEAT UP HADID” TRANSFER KIT which allows you to create your own t-shirt emblazoned with this issue’s BELLA HADID cover.

Learn more about the issue below:

Nothing makes sense. Nothing ever will again. The year 2016 marked a total rupture in the theater of politics. Even if the damaging effects of Donald Trump’s election somehow prove to be short-lived, his rise indicates a crisis wherein digital acceleration has led to political regression. In our dossier “US vs. THEM,” creative director RICHARD TURLEY creates a handbook for our new political paradigm. Its central hypothesis: Only within the chaos of this media overload will we discover what is real again.

“I am not sure if the sculptures were even subjects for her photographs …” For her first ever magazine editorial, “Heroines: Paris/Los Angeles,” artist CATHERINE OPIEteamed up with artistic director NICOLAS GHESQUIÈRE to create a study on the power of classicism and ambiguity. The exploration begins on the beige stone of the Louvre’s sculpture garden and continues to Opie’s studio in Los Angeles, documenting a sprawling circle of friends and acquaintances.

On a surrealist journey into the past, Martin Mosebach visits the summer retreat of JEAN COCTEAU. At the Villa Santo Sospir, the artist spent a decade’s worth of summers smoking opium and creating his largest total artwork.

Back with a vengeance for her third 032c cover story, COLLIER SCHORR teams up with fashion director Mel Ottenberg for “Smith & Wesson Blues,” a shoot with BELLA HADID, inspired by the body builder and Robert Mapplethorpe muse Lisa Lyon.

“Duchamp is my lawyer.” From his fortress of irony, designer VIRGIL ABLOH is set on turning fashion into the industrial arm of the art world. In conversation with 032c’s managing editor Thom Bettridge, he explains how streetwear is not just a fad, but a logic inspired by Dada and destined to dominate the digital age.

Accompanied by a re-print of MICHAEL SCHMIDT’s 2002 story for 032c, Kolja Reichert explores how the photographer’s community workshops from 1976 to 1986 create a style born out of the “Gray Island” of Berlin.

For the story “Energy Crisis,” photographer LUKAS WASSMANN and designer STEFANO PILATI shoot an editorial inside Michael Sailstorfer’s exhibition “Hitzefrei” at St. Agnes. As his first for a magazine editorial, Pilati’s styling includes garments from his own personal wardrobe.

“It’s an exhausting reality,” laughs JASON DILL. In an odyssey documented with drawings and pictures from his personal archive, the skate legend takes us to hell and back to Fucking Awesome.

In “Push Me Shove You Oh Yeah Says Who,” photographer JACKIE NICKERSON, along with fashion editor Marc Goehring and 032c apparel creative director Maria Koch, presents a yogic meditation on a white collar dystopia.

“I’m very bad at killing, in general.” As an antidote to postmodern culinary mediocrity, artist CARSTEN HÖLLER takes us to his concrete perch on the seaside of Ghana and guides us through the 11 points of his “Brutalist Kitchen Manifesto.”

In the “SSENSE Files,” we bring you scenes of cross-platform madness, including interviews with RICARDO BOFILL, PLAYBOI CARTI, CHITOSE ABE, CHRIS KRAUS, HENRY STAMBLER, AMINA BLUE, and 69.

In our second-ever “BERLIN REVIEW” section, we speak with JEFF KOONS about Plato, retrace MARTIN MARGIELA’s reign at Hermès, dive to the underwater tombs of PHARAOHS, and explore our favorite books of the season.

All this and more on 296 pages!