18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica will launch its 2009 exhibition season Saturday, February 7th, with “Shangri L.A.: Architecture as a State of Flux”.

Shangri-la, as normally spelled, refers to a fictional place in the Far East first described in “Lost Horizon,” a novel by British author James Hilton, and later popularized in a movie by Frank Kapra with the same name.

The title for the current exhibition, “Shangri L.A.: Architecture as a State of Flux,” takes its cues from the idea that the term Shangri-la has become synonymous with an earthly paradise or utopia. The figurative meaning of a Shangri-la, which was generated from the Los Angeles area (the movie locations were shot in Burbank, Westlake, and Palm Springs), reinforces the idea of how much influence Hollywood movies have on collective consciousness, a gallery spokesperson said.

Ichiro Irie, curator for the main gallery, has invited visual artists with some form of architectural training, or artists who spend an

unusual amount of time thinking about issues related to architecture and urban development.

The works in Shangri L.A. approach architecture as something fluid and ephemeral, at times virtual, interactive, recycled and purely cosmetic, building on and dissecting what is already there, exploiting in between spaces, and shifting as needs, values, emotions and desires shift, the gallery spokesperson said.

Instead of trying to rebuild a city from the ground up, the exhibition considers transforming the urban landscape as acts of transgression by individuals and small groups, within one’s own

means, and by any means necessary, not unlike an artist deals with a site specific installation, the spokesperson said.

The exhibition aims to celebrate architects, and non-architects, who make work that serves as visual/structural enhancers and pressure valves which might one day help Los Angeles, or a city like it, be more fun and less monotonous, more livable and less alienating.

Shangri L.A. artists include Anibal Catalan, Debbie Hu Ricks and Cedar Miller, Infranatural, Marcos Lutyens, Daniela Frogheri, Fernando Meneses, Oyler Wu Collaborative, James Rojas, and Chris Tallon. The exhibition will run through March 27th.

In the arts center’s project room space, Marcos Novak will present “Turbulent Shangri-L.A.” Novak is one of the center’s four 2009 California Artist fellows in residence.

The opening reception for the first of the exhibitions is scheduled from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, February 7th. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 18th Street Arts Center is at 1639 18th St., Santa Monica.