Installation

A Form of Currency: UCLA Graduate Open Studios

dscn1970-e1276139717586It’s all too easy—especially in a city permeated by the entertainment industry and material gain in general—to forget that there are still many artists out there committing their lives to their craft without the slightest hope of a monetary reward, and that there are a vast amount of studios in operation that have absolutely nothing to do with film or television. In fact, at the UCLA Graduate Open Studios in Culver City this past Saturday, I found that there were at least 30 dedicated artists at work who were not only putting their pieces up without price tags, they were most likely taking out student loans to do it.

This is not to say these young practitioners were exercising pure artistic selflessness; the hope, I gathered, as I traversed through the maze of sectioned-off galleries amidst packs of the hippest and most attractive art crowd I’ve seen in some time, was that people would notice the stand-out work, that they would pay attention (as opposed to money).

And attention can be a form of currency in itself. My colleague Helen, who I attended the event with discovered this fact in the most literal sense. We were vocally admiring the work of Max Rain (a stand-out artist, for sure)—in particular, a photograph of his that shows a piled arrangement of 20 or more dead and deformed rodents he collected as an employee of an animal shelter, the result of which amounts to a kind of macabre yet beautiful collage—when Max himself approached in the most amiable, non-egotistical manner possible in that situation. Helen told Max that if she had money, she would put the piece above her bed, to which he replied, “Really? If you promise to put it above your bed, I’ll give you a print for free.” He wasn’t lying. The mere idea of someone posting his work in their bedroom was, to him, compensation in itself.

I did, however, get a hint from another one of the artists, Sarah Dougherty—an incredibly talented painter who pieces together large LA-set landscapes with found objects, tapestry, and other pop-up book-esque features—as to who the real target audience might be. “We had our professor critiques this week,” she sighed in exasperation to me, going on to explain how most of the reviews were positive, but one in particular had her completely devastated.

Being in the “real world,” or at least the world outside of collegiate critique, it may seem difficult to relate to Sarah’s (or even Max’s) point of view. Who cares what a professor thinks? They’re not making any money either. But when you think about it, our art world—at least the part of it I’m interested in—is not so different from that Culver City rat maze I danced around on Saturday night, snatching up complimentary cheese and wine where I could find it. All artists, for the most part, are not looking to feed their wallets or even their ego. That’s not why they spend hours upon hours, day after day, inside tiny white rooms, experimenting with pigments or tweaking the electrical feeds on video installations. Why do they do it then? The truth is I don’t know. I’m tempted to say sex, but it probably has more to do with communication, putting something out there that’s you, says you—and how can something not be you when you spend that much time and energy on it?—then having someone else come up, take a look, and say, you know, I’d like to post you above my bed. Maybe it does have to do with sex.

- By Joshua Morrison

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Instant LA Summer

Bizarro-PicassoI met artist, curator, and all-around art enthusiast Esteban Schimpf when he came out to the FineArtsLA: Panel of the Muses event we hosted back in June. He was there to support his friend, panelist, and co-board member of the Chinatown gallery, Actual Size LA, Lee Rachel Foley. Schimpf made himself known as the first—and most voluable—volunteer of the after-panel Q&A session. His passion for supporting art and artists was intense, genuine, and immediately recognizable (he railed against the idea that the physical limitations of Los Angeles—traffic, isolation, etc.—should in any way prevent an artist from doing their job). Following the discussion, he was quick to introduce himself, revealing a chummier, more casual side of his personality, yet still brimming with that same passion.

On Thursday, August 19th, at 7:00 PM, Esteban opens his (to my knowledge) first personal exhibition in Los Angeles at the Carmichael Gallery in Culver City, and not surprisingly, his own work is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Schimpf, with the help of Stefan Simchowitz, has chosen to spotlight the work of fifteen other young, up-and-coming artists in an ambitious group show he has titled “Instant LA Summer.” Upon names only, I was admittedly unfamiliar with the artists on view, but after some instant LA research, the show looks to be extremely diverse in mediums and theme, but cohesive in pure enthusiasm. Essentially, it’s Esteban without Esteban. Here’s a quick, flip-through preview of what’s in store, but don’t hold me to it:

Los Super Elegantes: this musical duo, one male and one female, present three of their own videos, which are as much a part of their overall presentation as are their costumes, their on-stage theatrics, their public demeanor, sexual chemistry, and of course, their music—a Latino-influenced type of pop that owes a lot to show-tunes. Their videos, too, remind me of low-rent movie musical numbers (in one, a romantic, garbage-man Romeo belts out his love to a passing, balcony-perched Juliet).

Eric Yhanker: his piece, “Bizarro Picasso,” is a charcoal and graphite depiction of an old, wide-eyed bald man who looks kind of like the titular painter, but, in its tactility, more like something Jan Svankmajer would mold from clay. Photographic in its Chuck Close detail and sense of perception, the close-up portrait briskly departs from realism with its over-sized, features, namely the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears—the portals to our senses.

Josh Mannis: works in a variety of mediums, but his series of HD videos are the most striking. Like Yhanker, they concentrate on the frozen exaggeration of facial features, but in the style of a Japanese advertisement. Bright pastel colors, fleshy and freaky masks, limited body movement, and intense repetition characterize such works as “If You Don’t Know Anything, You Don’t Know This.”

Charles Irvin: a multi-instrumentalist as they say in the music world. He draws, paints, performs, makes videos, and simply exists. His works tends to be cartoonish, extremely colorful, and detailed, but in a soft way. It’s dream-like, psychedelic, and in-your-face. No subtleties here, save the man behind the man.

Kenneth Tam: another video-maker, but of the Dadaist ilk. His mundane, often single shot slices of life tend to take place in one setting, have a documentary feel to them, and are so direct and normal that they border the line on the absurd.

Maya Lujan: to look at pictures of her large-form, graphic patterns—architectural in nature—one would be quite surprised to hear that her installation in a 2008 UCLA exhibition was taken down due to the fact it included a simplified mandala that bore striking similarity to a swastika. In actuality, the piece was more akin to a kind of apocalyptic spacecraft, and it’s this exact questioning of shapes and patterns that shows up in most of her work.

Sarah Sieradzki: speaking of the architectural, her work presents mashups of varying shapes, materials, and textures—wooden frames, cement blocks, photographs—that look like models for massive monuments of future post-modernism (whatever that is). She seems to take joy in chaotic geometry, as well as the re-contextualizion of basic structures.

Pascual Sisto: also a multi-platform artist, he appears to specialize in playing with and subverting the viewer’s expectation. Much of his work starts off as a seemingly one-note image/idea—cursive neon lettering, a single-shot video of a motionless fruit tree—but will then either climax unexpectedly in a sudden spasm of movement (as with the fruit tree video) or double-back on its initial meaning (as with the phrase in neon: “Let us be Cruel”).

Daniel Desure: in his prints and photographs, there’s a cold, stillness that tends to break down time into single moments, whether its a car crash refracted into centrifugal prisms, or a can of paint in the midst of spilling. Desure seems to distill catastrophic moments into the way we often remember catastrophic moments: as single images.

Emily Mast: time is of the essence to this choreographic artist as well. She sets up complex, theatrical installations utilizing actors, props, lights, and costumes, which collide into a kind of Beckett-ian sense of nihilism. But within these dramatic interpretations is a clear sense of narrative, which is inherently married to time, and thereby, meaning.

Emily Steinfeld: a sort of found object artist who seems to enjoy the accidental/purposeful layering of solid things—how one thing can mold into another as if a chemical compound. Her series of structures entitled “Covert Cells” utilizes sheeting to cover objects like wine bottles and telephones so that they may be confused for a single entity.

Simon Haas: mainly primitive, muted browns and melancholy. As the title of his piece “A Brief Moment After a Bath” suggests, he finds subtle beauty in the skipped-over moments of life. The lead surface and the wide, gestural brush strokes of this oil painting have a wavy, watery feel to them. Like waking up from a dream and dealing with its immediate aftermath.

Mark Hagen: intricate, graphic designs made for specific technological uses. He designed a 360 wrap, for instance, to be hypothetically used on the antiquated bowling shoe so as to maximize arch support for the bowler. As a child, he helped his father part out and restore Post-War Studebakers, and he seems to have been elaborating on this work ever since.

Sean Kennedy: also works in design, but in a much more tactile sense. He builds layers of both abstract designs and found objects to create geometric patterns that are simple at first glance, yet wildly complex upon inspection.

Orlando Tirado: exotic, striking photographs and/or collages of imagery. The title of his piece, “ShamanColash or Land, Sea, and Air (Self Portrait)” speaks to the bizarre juxtapositions framed in the would-be tired genre of self-portraitry. To borrow a reaction once used to describe the first artist on this list (Los Super Elegantes), Tirado “[makes] the audience nervous. Nobody does that anymore.”

-By Joshua Morrison

Stefan Simchowitz presents “Instant LA Summer,” an exhibition by Esteban Schimpf, runs until September 10, 2010 at the Carmichael Gallery. The opening is  on Thursday, August 19th, at 7:00 PM. For more information, please visit www.carmichaelgallery.com, or call 323.939.0600.

 

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Panoramic Views: A Moving Story

union_theatre_facade1I’m about to move neighborhoods in Los Angeles. I realize this information is of interest to very few people, and even then, of very little interest. But for the past two years, I’ve lived in the USC area, about two blocks away from the historic Union Theatre—also known at the Velaslavasay Panorama—and I’ve never once stepped inside. I’ve tried. When I first moved in and took my inaugral expedition around the hood, I couldn’t help but gravitate toward the building. It’s vastly out-of-place, an artifact from another era dropped in-between a bodega and some low-rent housing (and in fact, it is from another era: it was built sometime in the 1910’s and operated for many years as a venue of multiple uses, including a playhouse, a silent-film theatre, and a meeting hall for the Tile Layers Union Local #18). When I tried to enter beneath the grand, old-fashioned marquee, however, it was closed. Ever since, it’s just been that mysterious buidling (sometimes aglow) that I drive by nearly every day, and have yet to go in—either because it’s closed or I have no reason. And now I’m about to move.

Fortunately, I have one last chance. This weekend, starting on Friday, but running on Saturdays as well, for five weeks only, the Velaslavasay Panorama opens its doors at 8:00 PM to present the unique and aptly located live performance of The Grand Moving Mirror of California. What is it? Good question. It’s a series of moving painted scenes, which encircle the theatre like a long scroll being rolled out around the audience, and depict the journeys of early American settlers attempting to reach California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Using live narration taken from an actual 19th century script, along with musical accompaniment and radio-play sound-effects, the show celebrates and revives a 130-year-old mode of entertainment that simply shouldn’t be missed.

Not bad for my last weekend in the neighborhood.

- By Joshua Morrison

For more information about the Union Theatre, the Panorama, or panoramas in general, please visit www.panoramaonview.org, or call 213-746-2166.

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photoAfter unknowingly attempting to attend a film during the release of the new TwilightSaga movie, Eclipse at the Arclight in Hollywood last night I was shocked to find the parking garage closed with a sign saying “full”. Aggravated in disbelief, I turned around to head home, and noticed a metered spot had just become available outside the theatre. I swerved into the space, scooped my sweater out the back seat and went to read the meter only to find that it is now $3.00 an hour to park in Hollywood (or 5 minutes a quarter). I took off to try to make the film only to discover the prices at the Arclight had gone up again.

In a town where change is omnipresent and the increase of day-to-day expenses make us feel we are in New York, there are less and less opportunities to experience the arts on a budget (did I mention the yellow plastic sunglasses in a 3-D film that will cost you your Popcorn and Diet Coke?) However, there is a beacon of hope nestled in the heart of Century City beneath the towering buildings that won’t cost you a penny and is sure to blow your socks off without wearing any yellow sunglasses.

The Annenberg Space for Photography, which has been open for a little over a year now, is as much an experience wandering through the curvy, camera-shaped building as it is seeing the photographs inside. Much more than just a traditional display area for prints, the digital projection gallery has two 7’x14’ seamless glass screens with real-projection imaging systems that exceed the level of image quality offered by Blu-Ray players. Watching photographs appear and fade with this caliber of stunning clarity and saturation paired with surround sound music will make your eyes and ears meld into one – taking the photographic image to the next level.

For the second year runningArclight the Annenberg Space for Photography is proud to host ‘Pictures of the Year’, a collection of the most outstanding documentary photography from 2009, recognized by Pictures of the Year International (POYi). With over 45,000 entries submitted from all over the world, the show is a pure visual story that explores humanity far beyond the greatest headline stories of 2009. Held for 65 years in Missouri, Los Angeles is fortunate to have the 67th annual exhibit return after it’s west coast debut last year.

With so many photographic stories being covered, the show is broken into four Categories: The United States War and Economy, The Human Experience, Ecologies and Economies, and The Globe. What makes the Annenberg Space for Photography unique is the digital features that play in the projection gallery. No longer is photography just a printed subject in a frame, but a visual story being told in a cinematic way, giving the viewer a greater insight to what is occurring inside the frame.                                                                                    67-CAA-01-SincS-A-01                    Be sure not to miss Stephanie Sinclair’sPolygamy in America” about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) community in Eldorado, Texas. Also, Kitra Cahana’s portraits of teenage runaways who gather once a year in a different American national park are sure to drop your jaw.

Every now and then we come across photographs online or in magazines and newspapers that we cannot escape – they stick with us and often become permanent representations of a time or place. The images from ‘Pictures of the Year” may only exist for one moment but can last a lifetime. And that’s totally worth a free admission.

- By Gray Malin

The exhibit runs through October 10th and more information can be found on the Annenberg website, http://www.annenbergspaceforphotography.org/. Hours are Wednesday – Sunday 11:00-6:00pm.

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SAVE + MISBEHAVE: CalArts Get Free!

Along with the mild spike in sunshine this past few weeks, some of you may have noticed another influx in your area: college students, running free, wild, and naked in the streets. Spring break! Five days of release from the shackles of schooldom. Freedom. Monday, though, brought the party to an end, and students across the city are settling back in and setting their eyes on the home stretch. For Art and Photography/Media Graduate students at CalArts, though, the “home stretch” means one thing: running free, wild, naked in the streets. That’s right, folks—it’s time for the CalArts MFA Open Studios.
On Sunday, April 11th, from 2:00 to 7:00pm, more than 60 artists studying at the California Institute for the Arts will open their studios to the public. Each artist will be present and light refreshments will be provided—a great opportunity to hobnob with some of the city’s most promising creative minds. Or to just get some free food and look at cool stuff. It’s free of charge, free of pretense, clothing optional. Freedom!

By Helen Kearns

Please visit the website for directions and artist information. Reservations not required.

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Oscar’s Evil Twin Found Atop Runyon Canyon

A while ago, we posted an article asking what you, dear readers, thought about the distinction between art and vandalism.  Skating the line, with a very charged political message, is British street artist D*Face who has installed two enormous and menacing Oscar statues atop two iconic LA locations: Runyon Canyon and Mel’s Drive-In in Hollywood.  Both statues have skeleton-like figures with bits of flesh missing from their arms and legs exposing Oscar’s blood and bones.  The one that sat at Runyon had a placard that read “Beauty Is One Snip Away,” while the other at Mel’s Drive-In said “Beauty Is Skin Deep.” They’ve both been removed since they were spotted yesterday morning, but the whole incident begs a whole host of questions, not least of which is: really? Mel’s Drive-In? We get Runyon Canyon, but that’s a strange choice.

More importantly, what do you think of all this? The two most basic sides must be: applause to D*Face for exposing a vanity-obsessed culture at a time when it’s at its most self-congratulatory vs. how petulant of this artist to criticize a sector of popular culture that he need not participate in if he finds it so disheartening.

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The ‘It’s Not To You’ Syndrome

I recently found myself sitting on a couch in a dark room inside the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts at USC watching a play-test of a brand-new interactive video game.  I use the term ‘interactive,’ because it was less like your typical Nintendo or PlayStation proceeding, and more akin to one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ movies, only digitalized, intricately detailed, and not a little influenced by the likes of Spielberg or Christopher Nolan.  The game takes place in a slightly futuristic society, and at one point, the protagonist, a detective, is sitting in his beat-down, windowless office going over clues, when he puts on a pair of special sunglasses.  These sunglasses allow him, and by proxy, us, the audience, to perceive his spacial environment as a pristine mountain-top, or a Redwood forest.  The effect is novel, and provokes a round of ‘wouldn’t-that-be-cool’ comments from anybody who’s watching, yet it also brings up an interesting, modern phenomenon.  I call it the ‘it’s not to you’ syndrome, and it works like this: you’re sitting in a beat-down, windowless office, but…it’s not to you.

Don’t get me wrong, this syndrome is hardly new or original, although it is intensifying in our digital age.  And one person who’s exploring this intensification is artist Jeffrey Wells with his newest exhibit Seeing While Seeing at the Bergamont Station Arts Center, a part of the Santa Monica Museum of Art.  Wells attempts to recreate the optical illusions of everyday life—the after-image of an exit sign, the undulating intersection of two vertical walls that meet at a right-angle—using video projections.  Thus the viewer is left questioning whether or not an illusion is physical or digital.  Both are percepts, separate from what some would call “objective reality,” but only one is an intentionally manipulated percept.

What Wells—along with the interactive video game, to a certain extent—may be attempting to illustrate is the danger of the ‘it’s not to you’ syndrome.  Because how do you really know what is?  Or who’s presenting what to you, for that matter?  And as the line between what is and what is to you gets smaller and smaller, what becomes of you?

Jeffrey Wells’s Seeing While Seeing is on view until April 17th at Project Room 1 in the Bergamont Station Arts Center, a part of the Santa Monica Museum of Arts.  Bergamont Station is located at 2525 Michigan Ave, Building G-1.  For more information, please call (310) 586-6488, or visit www.smmoa.org.

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Big Kisses, Bird Calls, and Puppy Dogs

uribefotobuenaNew

Pablo Uribe, Atardecer, 2008 (Dusk) – video still

This year, the Los Angeles Art Show made its home at Los Angeles Convention Center.  This venue change provided more space for gallery booths that ranged from contemporary works such as the Wall Project’s Shepard Fairey and Thierry Noir painted walls to landscapes galore — and even more space for project-based installations. The Vox Humana on-site art performance presented street artists Mear One, Kofie, Retna, and El Mac who showed off their talents over the length of the fair on large-scale canvases.  And speaking of more room, I wondered how Sidestreet Projects got one of their woodworking workshop buses into the fair.  These school buses are outfitted with project stations for elementary school children so they can make a nuts and bolts washer sandwich and one FUNdred dollar bills, which I am sure we all could use more of these days.

One of my favorite pieces of the art fair was Pablo Uribe’s video, Atardecer (2008), which screened in a makeshift dark room in the Guest Country program booth’s rear.  While looking at the other works from the 34° 53’ 0” S – 56° 10’ 0” W show, I heard animals sounds curiously mix with the ambient art fair noise.  Upon stepping into the screening area, there was a video of an older man standing before a black background looking as if he were about to perform a gorgeous aria.  Instead of sweet notes pouring out of his mouth, the sound of a dog’s bark came out.  And then the cooing of a bird!  The actor was imitating the sounds of native rain forest animals.

Willy Rojas’ photographs at Barcelona’s Villa del Arte booth depicted miniature figurines interacting

Willy Rojas, Egg

Willy Rojas, Egg

with their food-based environment.  Tiny people ski down slopes of salt or a wedge of hard cheese.  A man broke the shell of an egg with his sledgehammer while a couple ice skates on an orange hued soup.

Speaking of food, the Timothy Yarger Gallery presented Jean Wells’ The Giant Kiss quite literally.  The huge chocolate-scented foil wrapped sculpture demanded a tongue-in-cheek presence while paying homage to Claes Oldenburg’s shop.

The Rebecca Hossack Gallery held quite a few treats, including a gorgeous papel picado-esque paper cutting in the shape of a peacock (Ian Penney), a piece of toast with an image of Shakespeare burnt onto it à la the Virgen de Guadalupe (Maria Morrow), and also Phil Shaw’s photographs of brightly colored bookshelves, which was a voyeur’s delight to snoop the book titles.

And on my way out, I spotted three Jeff Koon’s puppy vases filled with fresh flowers guarding Jean Dubuffet’s Tapis at the Jane Kahan Gallery.  In my mind, they were the guardians of the LA Art Show — a much friendlier and kitsch version of Cerberus.

Fine Arts LA Jeff Koons puppy vase

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Pop Art For A New Generation

artwork_images_140033_500092_kadir-lopezWhat does pop culture mean to you? The first thing anyone might think is Andy Warhol – largely considered the father of pop art – and his Marilyn Monroe, Campbell’s soup, and Mickey Mouse prints.  On now through February 20 at the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot Station is your chance to redefine pop art for our generation.  Large-scale, colorful prints by two artists, Mikel Alatza and Kadir Lopez are full of color, texture, and familiar faces and things.

Mikel Alatza’s works range from a skull with the Mastercard logo to a clowned, vibrant, contorted painting of Julia Roberts.  Angelina Jolie has been given fire engine red hair and a bright red clown nose next to Paris Hilton whose tan looks even more fiercely dangerous than usual.

Kadir Lopez takes a more muted and almost vintage approach to the pop art world.  His Shell print features a river and skyline fitted within a Shell gasoline sign while his Wrigley’s piece has a distinctly political, textural feel.

Andy Warhol had his finger on the pulse of popular culture in the 70s (we still use the phrase he coined “fifteen minutes of fame” with great frequency) and perhaps its time we find an artist who knows how to transform our current pop culture icons into wild, vivacious prints that speak to us today.  Are you team Alatza, team Lopez, or both?

Mikel Alatza and Kadir Lopez’ exhibits will be up at William Turner Gallery through February 20.  Please call (310) 453-0909 or click here.

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Winding Up The Holidays…

A good lot of us cannot wait to say good-bye to 2009 and the ’00s as a whole.  Sayonara, the aughts.  And hellooo, teens!

But there are a couple of us having a hard time letting go of the holiday spirit.  And if you happen to be one of them, keep your iTunes radio on the Christmas carol channel and bake those cookies just a couple more days.

If ice-skating is your thing, swing by Pershing Square for some outdoors ice with your sweetest.  Hot cocoa is not included, but the fee and skate rentals are  only $8. [Info]  Need a few drinks to ease the pain when the ice breaks your fall one too many times?  The W Los Angeles in Westwood offers a skating rink of its own for those who need a little liquid courage…erm, holiday cheer to accompany them. [Info]

Do you need lots of bright lights to stay warm and cheery?  The DWP’s Holiday Light Festival is going strong…until tomorrow night.  You don’t even need to leave the safety of your own car while driving down a mile-long stretch of ligh decorations gracing Griffith Park. [Info]  If you tend to trot the unbeaten path, head down to the LBC to see Phantom Galleries’ version of a holiday light show.  Aptly titled Let There Be Light!, twenty-eight exhibitions in 25 storefronts will be shining with various light-based works ranging from the subtle, abstract shapes to the bold and fluorescent. [Info]

You don’t have to say good-bye just yet to the holiday season, but since CVS has its Christmas display right next to Valentine treats, the countdown is on.

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