There are many reasons to keep a blog. Dreams of movie deals and TV show running; coffee table books and cable news analyst-ing seem to be a very prevalent ones. There are the Diablo Cody’s of the world who sold their stripping journals and then wrote screenplays so sticky sweet that Oscar landed in her overused lap. The rules of journalism don’t seem to apply here, so the first person is acceptable. This is an opportunity for your host, me, to keep writing and to write about another facet of creativity, something I am none too good at, but understand that aspiration towards greatness. Which is why it comes with such difficulty to point out the considerable amount of slothfulness in the art world, and when I say art world I am specifically talking about my own environs, Los Angeles.
The goal is to continue to go out into this Los Angeles “Art Scene” and try to both be critical and to insert myself into it. To make friends, share ideas, discuss books and art and music and all of that highfalutin stuff we’ve all read about that took place in the 40’s – 70’s. You know, salon discussion of Descartes and Warhol, of the meaning of paint on canvas, word on page, sex on screen and drugs in blood. But, What I am finding thus far, and perhaps it is the way it was then, it seems more a fashion show, a gathering of the cool kids to admire their new hats and skinny jeans (I realize the skinny jean comment is as useful as a mother joke at this point, but still). This isn’t a diatribe designed to condemn the art scene, nor is it meant to discourage people from going out to look at art, celebrate artists and buy paintings. It is two fold, one, if you go to galleries you should actually stop to look at the art while not speaking to someone else about your own personal projects and where you’ll be showing next, second, don’t pretend that bad art is good just because it’s a scene and people are pretending it’s good because the “scene” is good. This is all abstraction, isn’t it, not making sense? Well, it does when you think about it in the context of what I just experienced at the last roundup. Onward.
And so, as we venture out towards the galleries of West Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire, Culver City and Santa Monica we ask several questions. Has technology ruined any chance we may have towards a useful and productive artistic community? Have the kids today missed the point? Why do we make art and why is it so important to some of us? Is a crappy digital photo of a hipster pregnant, pissing in the woods art?
Oh man, I can see this may be a two part-er already.
And to tell the truth, which is hard to do, most of the art I saw was so confusing and all over the place it reminded me of reading an US Weekly written in Russian over someone’s shoulder in a train station while tripping on mushrooms and drinking a screw top bottle of port wine in 120 degree heat. But alas, away we go.
All of the LA Art Blogs were stammering at the prospects of all these amazing openings on the weekend of July 10 – 12. I am going to disclose to you the places I have gone to find art:
www.dailydujour.com; http://artscenecal.com/Calendar.html; http://themagla.com/; www.artslant.com; http://try-har-der.blogspot.com/; and the nice people at LeBasse Projects and Charlie James Gallery.
WEST HOLLYWOOD AND MID-WILSHIRE
REGEN PROJECTS 633 North Almont Drive, Los Angeles California 90069
I had gone to Regen Project once before, Manfred Pernice, and to be honest the installation was some silly play on prefab furniture, it barely filled half of half the gallery and it felt pretty silly. A gallerist friend insisted that Regen was a good gallery and an “important” one. But after going the second time and seeing Lawrence Weiner’s “Placed On The Tip Of A Wave.” One wall had the slogan “PLACED ON A POINT NOT QUITE AT THE POINT.” In fact, the art was not so clever slogans like this plastered up on the walls. The middle of the space left empty for wandering chucklers. I don’t know Weiner’s work, but this was laughable. I did not feel the least bit interested nor did I do that thing I do when I see a carefully crafted work of art, nor did this conceptual art make me think anything other than, this isn’t as clever as everyone here is pretending it is. Maybe it was the simple stenciling and the lack of thought directed at the slogans, but the entire show was off putting and gave off the uneasy feeling of waiting in an emergency room for the doctor to tell you bad news. Regen Projects; you’ve let me down twice now. Shape it up.
6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Spaces 1 & 2, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Aaron Morse & Bill Jensen showing paintings. To start, this gallery is a great space in a horrible location. Housed in a complex with a few other galleries, ACME is the face of it, the largest and closest to the street, facing Wilshire Boulevard. It’s a more upscale crowd drinking Grolsch out of swing top bottles. The main room was filled with Morse’s paintings that cleverly chart the course of man from fishing with spears to riding on enormous Titanic style cruise ships. Morse’s work was clever and extremely accessible. Each painting was well thought out and held little surprises hidden in the color and texture. They did not make up a very compelling or original topic, evolution of man has been done for eons, but it was pleasing and well worked art.
Bill Jensen, as I have been told, is a real painters painter. Maybe that’s a good thing and he should be rewarded for his longevity. But 54 k may be a reasonable price for a an abstract by a big name in the art world, but these feel a little less than earth shaking. You’re in fact supporting the work of a painter’s painter who has really stuck it out and continued to make art well into his sixties. I liked the work, but I wouldn’t buy it. But, hopefully, he lives in some beautiful home with a sexy open-minded wife and a studio overlooking a gorgeous creek with purple sunsets. Hopefully he’s developed a respectable drinking habit, eats well and sports a good beer gut while still having a muscular physique. Because, in fact, that’s what we expect from our ruggedly individualistic abstract painters, the lifestyle we longed for. Us fans of the abstract got into it all as much for the freedom of the art as we did for the cowboys making those paintings. Keep in mind that I am not making fun of this school of art; in fact it is one of my favorites. However, the future of abstraction should not be the past. Bill Jensen’s paintings were great, completely hang-able, but slightly overpriced. Acme, you’re doing a good job, been there twice this summer and I’ve liked what I’ve seen.
Now we enter into the meat and potatoes of the openings. The really confusing stuff, the “LA art scene” Mecca of the night filled with clever art, bad art, good art, rock bands playing and art shows taking a back seat to the “scene. “ There were the rich, the poor, the rich disguised as the poor, the art fanatic, the scenester, the hipster; the normal dudes just out to see art. I wish it was a little grittier here in LA, but it just feels like Beverly Hills comes down off the hills and slums it for a night every month or so. The crowds were out in full force to swill the free booze, nod there heads at the bad art and most importantly to talk to each other about themselves.
And this is where the questions mentioned earlier start coming into play. A lot of the art here looks cooler on the blogs and web calendars than it does in person. It’s strange to think that art can hold more power when it’s reproduced digitally, but that seems to be the case with the CULVER CITY galleries. Also, the internet’s opinion makers christen kings of art without so much as a single critical word (see: http://try-har-der.blogspot.com/). Hence, walking into these places and appreciating the art seems to be secondary to saying you were there and then commenting on twitter or some blog about how the “whole world” was there and now we have to go back and take a closer look. I have news for you, save the time. The art wasn’t so good and neither was the crowd. Okay, okay, rant over.
The truth is some of the art was good, but the galleries don’t have any restraint allowing artists that are unable to edit themselves to run ramshackle into the spaces covering floor and wall with an inordinate amount of art. This takes the focus off the good stuff because there is so much mediocre art. Also, you don’t have to have something to say to be part of the art community, but, and this is something I learned a while back, if you’re going to celebrate the “ordinary” you must find a way to make it “extraordinary.”
CHERRY AND MARTIN
2712 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, Ca 90034
Bellows and Whispers: Claude Collins-Stracensky, Mari Eastman, Erik Frydenborg, Noah Sheldon & Torbjorn Vejvi
July 11 - August 8, 2009
The goal of the show: “The Large and Small Effects of Structure, Its Presence and Absence brings together the work of five artists interested in abstraction.”
Blah blah babety blah blach. This mish mosh of a show was the first stop on my Culver City tour and while these art-school grads are technically skilled artists it’s hard to find the soul in any of the too clever art. There was too much art to spend an inordinate amount of time on the stuff we here at artbystander didn’t like, but suffice to say this fell into the mediocre and too clever for it’s own good category. It wasn’t the worst we saw, but it also wasn’t the best.
KIM LIGHT / L I G H T B O X
2680 South La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90034
Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib’s Black Hole (Web), 2009 is a video and music installation that stood out as both original and traditional. With roots in abstraction the film and accompanying music holds a powerful fist and pounds it into your eyes. After leaving Cherry And Martin worried that I would have to endure a similar Culver City experience as I did last time, L I G H T B O X did the impossible and surprised me. I did not watch the entire thing yet I can clearly recall how I was struck by the freshness of the art. It both looked and felt compelling. The score felt thought out like a William Kentridge piece and the video felt French, smart and under control with total purpose. It was a really nice surprise. I intend to go back and watch in it’s entirety, the room was swelteringly hot and the crowd walking in and out was distracting, but there was no one in the room who could speak, everyone’s eyes and ears were fully set towards the art at hand. This was the first great work I have seen since starting out here. It’s a combination of video focused on nourish scenes and percussive music. The press release describes it as so…
Installed in a pitch-black room and projected onto a black screen, Black Hole presents an obscured sense of confinement and isolation. The environment introduces a sequence of shadowy interior images that rest on the threshold of visibility, and the projection itself appears to hover in space. Occasional breaks of light momentarily orient viewers to the projected image and its surroundings, but the illumination is fleeting. Bright images dissolve back to dark interiors and their accompanying sense of anxiety and disorientation. A surround-soundtrack of hypnotic buzz and martial percussion adds to the sense of confusion.
WALTER MACIEL GALLERY
2642 South La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90034
‘LAUGH IT OFF’ GROUP SHOW Curated by Jane Scott, Girl Wonder Inc. Including works by Oscar Cueto, Archie Scott Gobber, James Gobel, Laurie Hogan, William Powhida, Robb Putnam, Kammy Roulner, Lezley Saar and Fletcher Smith
This is a show that is best explained in pictures. Mostly good, with a little bad, all whimsical takes on contemporary art and art collectors. I am only going to focus on the successful and to continue being hypocritical, will only show photos this time around:
634 S. LA CIENEGA BLVD LOS ANGELES, CA 90034
LA STYLE III group show
Not worth very many words so referring to the twitter account:
Low grade graffiti art, unoriginal and bright, and that's just the first wall, the backroom is better though. Todd Williams oil on aluminum is worthwhile and rather decent. This gallery had too little going on it for the amount it had hanging on the wall.
JK GALLERY 2632 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034
Jaclyn Mednicov and Elizabeth Gahan
This show consisted of pretty art school paintings and drawing, not strong enough to move a pile of salt One piece I kind of like, the rest, eh. Reminds my friend of the front of a trapper keeper. This is that art school problem, these talented kids go out and know how to make art, people reward them for being good, but never teach them how to make art that is more content and less aesthetic. The work was visually pleasing and well crafted, but the people in the gallery were much more interested in the stimulating conversation than they were about the art. As a footnote, the staff at JK was some of the nicest on the strip, showing off the work and open to discussion. The artists both have promise, they just need to dig a little deeper and find some truth in what they are trying. Sex with model is only fun the first ten times or so, then you wish she’d stop doing her makeup and read some William Faulkner, you know? Although, looking at the two slides above, the dreaminess, the simple craftmanship, it makes you forget about criticism for a second, like shutting the fuck up and enjoying a sunset.
2622 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90034
BITCH IS THE NEW BLACK Curated by Emma Gray
This is where my anger starts bubbling like a soda can shaken and then thrown around until it explodes. I am sure there was some good art hanging in Honor Fraser, but honestly there was too much spectacle, too much mediocre art and too much “scene” to really make a difference. The show was not only over packed with under-worked art, it was over packed with people talking and drinking and stepping on the art and posing for photos and laughing and smiling and showing off new suspenders and moustaches and all that, the only thing they weren’t doing was looking at the art. Because if they did they would’ve realized that some of the “art” on display was, a bunch of blue jeans tied together, a wagon wheel broken on the floor, a gray crutch (yes, not a typo) standing in the middle of the space, an enormous tie-dyed shirt with “LEAVE ME ALONE” stenciled on it and a couple of overly photo shopped hipster photographs. One was a pregnant woman peeing in the woods, what feminist freedom, really, taking back the female form like never before, you truly should be applauded. The second a woman’s unshaved vagina being spray painted red. I am ready to teach a graduate level course on that brilliant piece. In fact, every where you looked in Honor Fraser there was art set to quench the thirst of people looking for that little niche of slightly off kilter hipster kitsch that feels just out there enough to be different but at the same time attainably real and free as to make these liberal adult-baby species feel as if they are really living the bohemian lifestyle while under their safety blankies.
All that being said, it’s nice to see a show of all women artists being curated, definitely not enough of that around. But, perhaps the enthusiasm for the subject may have caused a little loss in judgment when hanging the show. Less is always more.
Man, that sounds bitter doesn’t it. Honestly, there were some interesting works of art in the space, but there was so much art and so many pieces, that in my humble opinion lacked luster, that it was hard to find and discern the good stuff. But still, all the blogs were abuzz with this show, naming it THE show to see, especially Try Harder Art, which never offers anything but nice words about all the art it goes and photographs regardless of the blogs title. In fact, like those hipster photographers from the early 2000’s who blindly celebrated the partying on the LES of Manhattan, it seems like TryHarder’s one goal is to photograph the people looking at the art in hopes of getting a book deal and throwing another shitty and pointless coffee table book at this self-masturbatory community of people who pretend to be humble.
To be honest, it was hard to recover from seeing this show. It made me angry and it made me want to go home throw on some music and drink! It made me want to drink and act like a derelict just home from a stint in prison. Fighting everything I laid eyes on. This is the example of people not getting it. They continue to foster this notion that the art world can be like a backstage party at a Rolling Stones concert. They’re missing the point in a huge way. The cool kids want to be cool, they don’t want to be good, but they want you to think they’re good and all their friends will pretend they’re good until we buy it. I ain’t buying it!
Taking a moment to catch my breath here, it’ll all be all right; it’ll all be all right, SERENITY NOW.
All the other galleries after Honor Fraser will be written about later or maybe never. Here is the list of the rest of the shows and my general impression. After this I am going to pour myself rum and listen to some Bob Dylan.
ANGSTROM GALLERY 2622 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90034 Peter Macapia – SKULLCRACKER
Skull cracker was some good intricate stuff, art under control, looked like snakeskins were molded into strange prehistoric bridges. Very interesting and a great offset to Honor Fraser’s complete disregard for control or craft.
CONSTANT GALLERY 2673 S La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90034 DESERT SEXY
Desert Sexy won me over. Felt like a David Lynch film written by Oliver Stone. No pretension, just art hanging and installed. A band called Yawing Man or something and a lot of people laughing and looking at the art like their life depended on it. I really enjoyed this show for it’s amateurish nature.
Bergamot Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave T5, Santa Monica, CA 90404 MONSTER?
Monster? Cool takes on monsters. Very comic and playful and affordable. The art was fun and comic bookish, much more graphic designer and less fine art. Not sure what I would buy, but any thing at Bergamot station is always a pleasure. The jazz band out front was a nice touch.
IN CONCLUSION (of sorts)
Eeek, is it over? I hope this whole thing hasn’t been too grueling. It was a long tour. Three full hours and a lot of art to then swallow, digest and reconsider. I think that my view of this LA Art Scene is starting to form an avenue of hopefulness. If there is even a little bit of good then that always outweighs the negative. But, there is also this feeling that I really haven’t figured out why people go to these openings. And what is the effect of the digital age on art. These are some topics I think need to be wrestled with in the future.
The important thing to remember is that people are still making art and others are going to look at it, talk about and photograph it. They post to blogs and twitter and facebook and they share their ideas and feelings about this. Some are even passionate to the degree that they comment, fight it out with typed words and insist that their opinion is the right one or even more interestingly, are desperate for the exchange even if it’s through cyberspace. But, I think it’s important to consider how this influences the way we look at and the way we think about art and particular artists. Is something as good as it looks when a photographer singles it out on a blog and fills the shots with “cool looking” people or are we being influenced as if it were a carefully written and produced advertisement, like a cool cowboy smoking a Marlboro?
I want the art to speak for itself I guess. I want it to be unique, not ikea. I want it to make a push, feel dangerous and move forward in a fresh way.
~ Craig A. Platt