Seeing Things: Made In L.A.
MADE IN L.A. is the first major biennial in Los Angeles, a collaborative effort organized by the UCLA Hammer Museum and LAXART, a dynamic nonprofit space located in Culver City. Art production has exploded in L.A., fueled by the prevalence of outstanding art schools, affordable studio space and a town whose “no limits” ethos is a global magnet for artists. The biennial’s goal is to expose, promote and celebrate this proliferation via the 60 emerging and under-recognized artists featured in the show.
On the weekend of June 2, the three venues housing the biennial opened on successive days. The Hammer drew record crowds on Friday night; LAXART dominated Saturday afternoon with the opening of the collaborative, Slanguage; and Barnsdall Park Municipal Gallery in Los Feliz drew the community on Sunday. Uniting the venues is SoundMap, a mobile audio experience, prepared for viewer listening while traversing the city to the various locations. (Download free from iTunes.) The biennial is characterized not only by the visual component, but also by a roster of events that includes music, performance and public programming through September 2. In addition, an irreverent boardwalk biennial at the legendary Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk will take place July 13-15.
As for the art itself, the range is broad in terms of technique and execution. While residing in L.A., the artists hail from different cities and countries, representing an international array of concerns and viewpoints. Painting and sculpture are featured alongside multiple videos, installations and architecturally integrated pieces.
Born in Buenos Aires, Analie Saban has been rigorously questioning the nature of what constitutes painting and the way it merges into sculptural territory. With a subtle palette, the form of the canvas is manipulated with bulges and tears and the paint texture becomes physical.
Mimi Lauter, originally from San Francisco, is an emerging artist working with oil pastel on paper. While she uses a traditional medium, she has a rich, painterly sensibility that is most dramatic at large scale, a typical work measuring over 9 feet. The pieces reside in abstraction but make haunting reference to landscape and animals.
Many of the artists in the show are represented by more than one medium. Jill Spector, creates inventive, abstract sculptures that appear chaotic but have strong underlying form and structure. The sculptures are made from materials such as plaster, wood, steel, and paper maché. Color photocopies are incorporated into the sculpture and are also used for intricate, two-dimensional collages on the wall.
Ryan Sluggett makes paintings and animations that often begin as drawings. The presentation at the Hammer features an energetic, high-keyed animation encased in a painting that functions like a sculpture. As in Spector’s work, there is a sense of disorientation that coincides with underlying purpose. The narrative is elusive but the sense of intrigue holds the eye.
The integration of art and architecture is a theme the Hammer has used to great effect in their lobby installations. The two celebratory works by Meg Cranston continue the tradition. The entry-wall mural sets the tone for the entire exhibition.
The stairway mural hosts a series of Bic lighters that use the colors from Pantone’s 2012 spring/summer forecast. The work reflects Cranston’s fascination with color theory and archiving and makes a humorous nod to fashion.
On the Hammer’s upper floor, Morgan Fisher created a rigorous and formal painting on two perpendicular walls and the adjacent ceiling. Reminiscent of fresco painting whose form relies on the architecture, the piece can be seen in its entirety from only a single vantage point. But from every direction the color creates a new frame for the surrounding views, making reference to the artist’s ongoing interest in film and filmmaking.
The biennial is a complex undertaking, each artist deserving separate consideration. This opportunity is well-provided in the extensive catalog of the exhibition. Adding to the excitement is the creation of the Mohn Award, a $100,000 prize and publication of a book awarded to one artist from the exhibition. A jury of professional curators from around the country will select five finalists from the 60 artists. The winner will be chosen by visitors to the exhibition through online and on-site voting. Hello, American Art Idol.
An extensive and beautiful website has been specifically designed to communicate the myriad details of the show. Check it out for the latest updates. www.madeinla2012.org