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LA Heat exhibition celebrates Angelenos' love of hot sauce




The exhibition
The exhibition "LA Heat" is now on display at the Chinese American Museum in downtown LA until July 12, 2014.
Leo Duran
The exhibition
Michael C. Hsiung's "On the topic of how various sauces can make pizza better." The museum describes that he, "illustrates the impact of both Sriracha and Tapatío on Los Angeles food and culture. The popularity of Sriracha and Tapatío reflects how Los Angeles’s culturally diverse neighborhoods have helped shape and evolve some of our most familiar cuisine, such as the always popular pizza."
Leo Duran
The exhibition
"LA Heat (Wasabi)," by Gajin Fujita. According to the museum, "Wasabi comes from Fujita’s Japanese American cultural background, and the heat wasabi brings to our taste buds and to the taste buds of all the Angelenos who love eating sushi. 'LA Heat (Wasabi)' is his interpretation of culinary heat in L.A., which always causes the taste buds to flame in his mouth."
Leo Duran
The exhibition
"Weapons of mask destruction and pepper spray," by Slick is his commentary on the controversy over the alleged burning smell of the air around the Sriracha factory.
Leo Duran
The exhibition
"Tàu Bay," by Trinh Mai, acknowledges the phrase's two meanings: one is a Vietnamese description for an extra large serving of pho, and the other is a homonym for "flying Chinese." Mai interprets both with two flying people -- renderings of her and her friend -- flanking a bowl of pho.
Leo Duran
The exhibition
Trinh Mai's "Tàu Bay," layers the ingredients of pho together like microscope slides. Each panel of plexiglass contains a single, actual ingredient of pho -- such as real sauce and noodles -- so when you look at them straight on they coalesce into a single serving.
Leo Duran
The exhibition
"Tablecloth," by the street artist Shark Toof, merges his signature image of a fierce shark with delicate placemats sewn together into one large piece. Each image was made by screen-printing a various mixture of condiments and hot sauces directly onto individual mats.
Leo Duran
The exhibition
"Los Angeles Grocery" is Patrick Martinez's is a tribute to grocery store items found in ethnic markets throughout LA.
Leo Duran
The exhibition
Sket One's "Sketinguish-1 -2, -3." He had fun in creating this art by juxtaposing the hot, fiery aspects of sriracha sauce on fire extinguishers.
Leo Duran


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If there was a cuisine that defined L.A., you should probably first look into a bottle.

Hot sauces are a regular part of meals in Southern California, and two of the nation's biggest brands — Sriracha and Tapatio — hail from the L.A.-area.

Those and more sauces are getting a tribute at downtown's Chinese American Museum in the exhibit, "LA Heat." Dozens of local artists jumped at the chance to make art specifically for the exhibit, with examples ranging from neon-lit pieces that evoke grocery store signs to actual hot sauces silkscreened onto placemats like paint.

The historic cultural museum might seem an unlikely place to host it, but co-curator Joelle Warlick says it fits into the organization's mission to reflect L.A.'s cultural diversity.

"We're trying to look at different aspects of Los Angeles," says Warlick on Take Two. "As well as just what immigrants like Luis  Saavedra and David Tran —  the founders of Tapatio and Sriracha — were able to achieve when they came here."

Los Angeles seems to be the perfect place to showcase hot sauces too, she adds, because creativity and energy bubbles through the air.

"When you think of Los Angeles, you do think of nice weather, you think of a hot place," said Warlick. "This also means a place that's hot with excitement. It's a unique place that you can't get anywhere else."

LA Heat is at the museum from now until July 12. Take a tour of the museum through this slideshow, and tell us how spicy you go on your food.