It’s a classic problem – how to do a show on a feel-bad topic without making your audience feel bad. That’s the central question for Josh Kun’s exhibition at the Grammy Museum downtown, ‘Trouble in Paradise.’ In this case, how do you represent the entire history of Los Angeles’s racial conflicts over a thirty year period (1945-75) through a handful of objects, some well-chosen movies, and a jukebox? The straight answer is you can’t – it’s too big, and too complex a topic to do any more than hint at a history, and hope that a few visitors get it.

But that’s a backhanded compliment, because what Kun has done is show precisely how big a subject it is. The argument is straightforward: LA was in a state of de facto racial war 1945-75, but it is precisely through conflict that great music is produced. Or to put it another…

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About Richard J Williams

Professor of contemporary visual cultures and head of history of art at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Books on cities include 'The Anxious City' (Routledge, 2004), 'Brazil' (Reaktion 2009), 'Regenerating Culture and Society' (edited with Jonathan Harris, LUP 2010), and 'Sex and Buildings' (Reaktion, 2013). Writing a new book about Reyner Banham.

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