Recordings of a City

Former factory worker returns to Santee Village for art show

By Lilian Lee
Published on LatinoLA: December 14, 2007

Recordings of a City

Diego Cardoso - transportation expert by day, artist by night, and a factory worker in a former decade - will be returning to Santee Village, the site of his first American job, to open his art show through December 31, 2007.

People don't have to know of Cardoso's position as the Executive Officer for the Transportation Development and Implementation department at MTA to realize that he is an artist fascinated with transport and change in downtown Los Angeles. Though he has been called a mass transit and pedestrian advocate, his paintings are not so much critiques of L.A.'s car culture as they are the insightful observations of a man who has seen Los Angeles morph into the metropolis it is now.

Cardoso refers to his paintings of downtown L.A.'s freeways, buildings, and roads as "magical realism" because he sometimes moves or adds landmarks around town, such as placing the Caltrans building in the middle of the freeway in his Plan For The People. Cardoso's metal artwork, though more abstract and requiring different techniques, takes on subjects similar to his acrylics: Los Angeles and transportation.

Cardoso calls his paintings and metal artwork "recordings of a city as it continuously adapts itself to the current developments in transportation."

Indeed, you'd would be hard-pressed to find a man who has personally seen the Fashion District change as much as Cardoso. At 17, his first job in America was at one of the textile factories that now make up Santee Village lofts. He operated a machine that stuffed and sewed buttons onto pillows until he decided he simply couldn't handle it anymore and took the bus home after eating a hamburger next door.

The hamburger joint is no longer there and the machines are long gone, but Cardoso still feels a connection to the place where he once held a summer job, and says, "It's no accident that I've chosen to exhibit my artwork at Santee Village."

Santee Village, in the heart of the Fashion District, is the first urban loft community in Los Angeles that offers a built-in village in its block-long interior courtyard with retail space designated and filled with restaurants, art galleries, coffeehouses, drugstores, and other shops in addition to the weekly Farmers Market. MJW Investments, the company behind Santee Village, has worked hard to retain the character of the buildings' first lives as textile factories.

While the Santee Village lofts are part of the changes giving the Fashion District a face lift, you can see nods to the past in the details: oversized vintage industrial windows have been unchanged as have the tiling on the floors and walls. They're not factories anymore, but Santee Village won't be completely new to Diego Cardoso.

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