LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes presents 18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium, an exhibition recounting the 80-year history (1925-2005) of the Olympic Auditorium, the home for visceral entertainment in Los Angeles. From the dangerous combat of boxing to the dramatic theatricality of wrestling, roller derby, and music (from rhythm & blues to hardcore punk), the gritty punch palace at the corner of 18th Street and Grand Avenue distilled the beauty and brutality of a divided city.
The Olympic Auditorium was a focal point for Mexican American and Mexican culture in Los Angeles, its ring was a platform for contenders from Southern California and south of the border, prompting fierce rivalries and inspiring intense bonds between athletes and fans. A part of the fabric of L.A., the Olympic influenced popular culture through its weekly presence on local television, famous phone number (Richmond 9-5171), and frequent appearances in Hollywood films and TV shows. The action and atmosphere at the Olympic attracted movie stars, gangsters, artists, and writers. Still, its most loyal fans were working-class Angelenos, a fact well understood by Aileen Eaton, a female promoter who thrived in the male-dominated world of combat sports for nearly four decades. This historic venue shaped Los Angeles’ past and influenced its future.
18th & Grand: The Olympic Auditorium showcases relics and remembers characters from a disappearing world, from heroes to villains, connecting the building to seminal events and cultural movements throughout L.A. history. This immersive exhibition is gathered from multiple collections and features distinctive objects and images. The exhibit includes embroidered boxing robes, hand-stitched lucha masks, race-worn roller skates, illustrations, photography, boxing posters, wrestling programs, punk rock flyers, and more.
Curated by filmmaker Stephen DeBro, Latino boxing historian and author Gene Aguilera with LA Plaza curators Karen Crews Hendon, Esperanza Sanchez, and the LA Plaza curatorial team.
Exhibition Dates: August 11, 2023- May 12, 2024
Exhibition Reception: Friday, August 11, 2023 from 6-8pm with a VIP reception starting at 5pm.
Image: Theo Ehret, Olympic Auditorium, 1974, Digital print on paper, Courtesy of the Theo Ehret Estate